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Car Seatback Defects: A Hidden Danger

Leather car seats

We know about airbag defects. We know about brake defects. We know which car seats we should choose for our children, and when to graduate them to the next level of booster seat. There’s another danger to modern vehicles, however, that has long flown under the radar: weak car seatbacks. Seatback defects have been a problem for decades but, to date, there has been no national movement to address the issue. Read on below to learn about the hidden dangers of car seatbacks, and call a knowledgeable Texas car accident and defective products attorney if you or your child has been injured by a defective auto part.

The Dangers of Weak Car Seatbacks

The prevailing auto safety recommendations tell you to seat your young children in the back seat. The front passenger seat is more dangerous for kids, and the airbag is likely to do more harm than good if it actually deploys for them. However, the danger with placing children in the back seat is that they are behind you or your other passenger sitting in the front seat.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets standards for seatbacks, requiring automakers to build them up to a certain level of toughness. The reason is this: If you are in a sudden high-speed crash, especially a rear-end collision, the front seat might buckle and slam backward. In such a scenario, your child could be crushed by your seat and your own body.

Although NHTSA sets standards for car seatbacks, those standards were made more than 50 years ago. Critics and safety experts say that those standards are extremely weak compared to what is necessary to actually protect all vehicle occupants. As far back as 2016, in fact, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) petitioned NHTSA to “take action to protect children riding in the rear seats of vehicles from the risk of being killed or severely injured when struck by a collapsing front seatback in a rear-end crash.” They explained that NHTSA has not taken sufficient action to address “the poor performance of seatbacks in rear-end crashes.” These safety experts recommend that when you place your young kids in the backseat, you put them behind an unoccupied seat, if possible, to avoid the danger of seatback collapse.

The dangers of weak seatbacks are stark: According to one estimate, around 50 children are killed every year in rear-end collisions, and experts believe many of these fatalities were caused by seats collapsing backward. Despite these dangers, evaluating seatback strength is virtually impossible for even the savviest consumer. Automaker websites tout many of their safety features, but they never discuss seatback strength. Unless you have information directly from a lawsuit already challenging the seatback strength of a particular make and model, it’s simply unavailable data.

Congress Poised to Take Action

Because NHTSA has yet to take significant steps to address the problem, some lawmakers have decided to take the matter into their own hands. Three House Democrats introduced a bill earlier this year known as the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act, which would require NHTSA to update its decades-old standards regarding seatback strength. Federal senators have also introduced a similar bill, which was then absorbed into a more comprehensive Surface Transportation Investment Act. While both bills were introduced over the summer, little action has yet been taken. Regardless, safety advocates are cautiously optimistic that the bills will prove uncontroversial and will make their way through both houses.

If you or a family member has been injured in a Texas car accident, please contact the Turley Law Firm online or call 214-691-4025 or email today to schedule your free consultation. Our qualified Dallas car crash attorneys serve clients throughout Texas and multiple Southern and Southwestern states.

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