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What is the Safest Seat in a Car During an Accident?

In Accident Safest Seat?
Safest Seat in Car Accident?

People often wonder where the safest seat in an airplane would be in case of a crash.  But what about a car accident? What is the safest seat inside a car if and when a car accident takes place?

It seems statistics and studies rule the day in resolving disputes.  So, let’s take a look.

The generally held belief proclaims the back seat of a car as the safest in a highway accident.  University of Buffalo Researchers report that the back seat is 59 to 86 percent safer than the front seat.  Backed up by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – NHTSA -research, crash statistics show the middle seat in the back is most survivable.

The middle seat turns out to be the safest because the outer seats are closest to the likely point of impact in a side impact crash.  So, the person crammed in to the middle of the back seat sits further from the “crumple zone” of an accident.

NHTSA actually recommends all children under 13 ride in the back seat.  At the same time, researchers warn that the numbers work only if the rear center passenger wears a seat belt.  And of course younger children need always be in a proper kid’s car seat.

Rear Seat Always the Safest?

As with most “studies”, guess what:  there’s another view. The long-time assumption telling us the back seat offers most protection in an accident might not be the final word.  A group called Insurance Institute for Highway Safety took a look at 117 crashes in which rear-seat occupants were killed or seriously injured.  In many of the cases, this study found, back-seat passengers were injured more severely than the front-seat occupants.

Car manufacturers, this group believes, introduced many features improving the safety of the front seat over the years.  At the same time, carmakers’ focus on back-seat safety fell behind.

“It’s not that the rear seat has become less safe, it’s that the front seat has become more safe over time.”

IIHS President David Harkey

Both active and passive technologies combine to reduce the chance of serious injury or death to front seat passengers.  The active technologies include electronic stability control, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.  Passive systems reducing the likelihood of serious injury include the old standbys of seat belts and airbags.

Airbag technology advanced to the point of triggering within milliseconds of a crash.  But that benefits people up front. Back-seat passengers, as researchers point out, gain no benefit from front-mounted airbags.

Front seat seatbelts tend to have more advanced features such as pre-tensioners which immediately tighten at the moment of impact.  Rear seatbelts tend not to include that feature.

The institute behind the front-seat-back-seat study concluded by recommending that automakers going forward take a closer look at kicking up safety features for back seat passengers.

So What is the Safest Seat in a Car Accident

So where do you sit to reduce the chances of being hurt seriously in a car accident?  Delving into the statistics further, age matters.  For example the rear seat still offers the highest safety level for children under 9 years old.  Above all, this assumes proper use of restraints.

At the same time, relying solely on statistics, the numbers show that for passengers 55 and older the rear seat may be less safe than the front.  In fact, when in the rear seat, older passengers suffered the highest risk of being seriously or fatally injured than any other age group.  Not surprisingly the researchers indicate more study is needed on that finding.

The author of this blog article, attorney Andrew D. Myers, practices personal injury law with offices in North Andover, Massachusetts and Derry, New Hampshire.   With offices just outside of Boston, MA and Manchester, NH attorney Myers has represented clients injured in accidents caused by adverse road conditions, bad weather, distracted driving, drunk driving and many other factors.  If you have been injured in an accident through no fault of your own feel free to contact us now, through this website, or call.

For more on what causes most car accidents: click here.


A Car’s Middle Back Seat May Be Least Desirable, but It’s The Safest, Lous Baker, buffalo.edu, June 27, 2006.

Rear-Seat Occupant protection hasn’t kept pace with the front, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, IIHS Study, April 25, 2019

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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