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Cok Kinzler PLLP

Carmakers criticized over rear-seat passenger protection

The new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks in dealer showrooms in Montana and around the country boast an impressive array of innovative safety features, but a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reveals that many of them do little to protect rear-seat passengers. The Virginia-based advocacy group says that this is a serious problem because many people are now using ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft instead of their cars to get around.

The IIHS reached its conclusions after studying 117 car accidents that killed or seriously injured rear-seat passengers who were properly restrained by a safety belt. The researchers determined that many of these lives could have been saved if their seat belts featured tensioners that automatically tighten in the moments prior to and after a collision. Carmakers have been adding this feature to front seat belts for many years. Other safety features rarely found in the back of cars include force limiters that allow a small amount of seat belt webbing to spool out to prevent chest injuries and airbags.

Seat belt use greatly reduces the chances of being seriously injured or killed in an automobile accident, but studies show that rear-seat passengers often fail to buckle up. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 90% of front-seat passengers and 75% of rear-seat passengers use their seat belts. The IIHS says that this gap could be narrowed if car manufacturers equipped their vehicles with seat belt warnings for rear as well as front-seat passengers.

Car accident victims in Montana who pursue civil remedies may be awarded reduced damages if they were not buckled up when they crashed. This is because the state's comparative negligence law requires damages to be awarded based on the litigant's degree of fault. Experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to ensure that their clients receive all of the damages they are entitled to by calling on experts to determine how much difference wearing a seat belt would have made.

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