Seatbelt usage across the U.S. averages 66% in the front seat, but rear seat passengers use safety belts only one-third of the time according to the Air Bag Safety Campaign.
Ironically, the rear seat offers the highest level of safety in a crash and the most protection, but only if passengers are wearing a lap and shoulder belt. In front end collisions, abdominal, spine and head injuries are severe for the rear seat passenger who is wearing only a lap belt. Forces impelling the passenger forward result in extreme flexion at the waist, compression of abdominal organs and the whipping action results in major head and neck injuries.
Unsecured rear seat passengers, in frontal crashes, move directly toward the impacting force in approximately one-tenth of a second following initial impact with a force on the order of 20 times gravity.
Princess Diana was in the traditionally “safer” back seat, behind a body guard who was wearing a seatbelt and protected by an airbag. The front seat and belted body guard suffered massive facial injuries, but survived the crash. With a seatbelt, Diana’s chances of surviving would have been much greater.
Proof of the safety of the rear seat can be found in NHTSA statistics for injuries to children in the rear seat who are properly belted. They have the lowest death rate in crashes.
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