Congress, Crash Victims Want Action on Deadly Seat Back Failures

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
congress crash victims want action on deadly seat back failures

Modern technology helps vehicles avoid collisions and prevents injury, but the potential for a deadly collision inside the vehicle is being overlooked, some say.

Seat back collapses have killed or seriously injured 100 people since 1989, a CBS News investigation found, and lawmakers in Congress are now joining victims in calling for action.

Although all new vehicles must pass federal safety regulations before they can be approved for sale, advocates say the standards for seat strength are too low. In a rear impact, front seat backs can fail, propelling front seat occupants towards the rear of the car, where they often collide with back seat passengers.

Children, especially those in front-facing car seats, are especially vulnerable when this happens.

A similar investigation by Fox News found 100 lawsuits claiming the death of a child was caused by seat back failure.

Both reports highlight the case of 16-month-old Taylor Warner, who died after her parent’s 2010 Honda Odyssey was rear-ended by a vehicle travelling 55 miles per hour. The child suffered fatal head trauma after the Honda’s driver’s seat collapsed into her.

An auto industry engineer once testified that strengthening seats would cost about a dollar.

Today, Senators Ed Markey (D–MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D–CT) plan to send a letter to 19 automakers, including Honda, asking for answers on the issue. Markey seems especially angered by the inaction of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“We had warnings on airbags for years. NHTSA did nothing. We’ve had warnings on seat backs killing children in the back seats. NHTSA has done nothing,” Markey told CBS. “This is just history repeating itself. It just has to end.”

While the NHTSA is aware of the potential for seat back failures, it claims it doesn’t have enough data to support changes to seat construction. The safest place for a child, according to the NHTSA, remains the back seat.

[Image: IIHS]

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  • Thabo Thabo on May 26, 2016

    And what about the third row seat elephant in the room here. Kids heads are 8 inches from the rear glass, may as well store the buggers in the trunk! My A8 D2 is a mechanical mess but having a trunk and a certain mass makes me less worried about the little ones in the back. Also rear end crashes. Recent case here in Boulder where two folks were killed when rear ended by a Jetta doing 45Mph in a newish Honda fit that was waiting at a traffic light. This should not of happened? I was under the impression a low speed crash such as this was survivable. Of course let's remember than in some countries NEW cars STILL don't come with airbags or even ABS! Parents bought a new Hyundai Atos without either in 2010. Funny as I see them a lot here in Germany so I assume it was an option and they just choose to cheap out for the African market.

  • Carl0s Carl0s on May 27, 2016

    I guess AEB will deal with this problem and hopefully become as commonplace as ABS.

  • Kwik_Shift A manual bug eye WRX wagon (2001-03) would interest me more.
  • El scotto Ferrari develops a way to put a virtual car in real time traffic? Will it be multiple virtual players in a possible infinite number of real drivers in real time situations?This will be one of the greatest things ever or a niche video game.
  • El scotto It's said that many military regulations are written in blood. Every ship's wheel or aircraft joystick has a human hand on it at all times when a ship or aircraft are under power. Tanks, APC's and other ground vehicles probably operate under the same rules. Even with those regulations accidents still happen. There is no such thing as an unmanned autopilot, ever. Someone has to be on the stick at all times.I do not think MB understands what a sue-happy nation the USA is. The 1st leased MB in a wreck while this Type 3 "Semi-Autonomous" driving, or whatever it is called, will result in an automatic lawsuit. Expect a class action lawsuit after the 1st personal lawsuit is filed. Yes, new MB owners can afford and ever are lawyers.Mercedes Benz; "The best wrecks or nothing!" Oh and has anyone noticed that Toyota/Lexus and Honda/Acura, the gray suit with white shirt and striped tie, automobile companies have stayed away from any autonomous driving nonsense?
  • Merc190 Very streamlined but not distinctive enough for a Mercedes. And besides, the streetcar of the early 20th century seems a far more efficient and effective method of people moving in essentially an autonomous manner. A motor car is meant to be driven with proper attention to what's important in every situation. To design it otherwise is idiotic and contradictory.
  • Abqhudson Passenger seating in recent accords has been unacceptable with my 5’2” wife forced to look at the dash while sitting in the hole provided.