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NHTSA May Change Standard for Vehicle Seat Back Strength

A car's front seat collapsing backwards and hurtling its occupant with startling speed into the body of a backseat passenger is not what customarily comes to mind when the topic of car accidents comes up.

Motor vehicle engineering experts want it more widely known that this is happening with sufficient regularity to seriously injure a number of riders, most commonly children, sitting in the backseats of cars that are struck from behind by other vehicles.

"The front seat occupant becomes the missile that goes back and hits the brain of the child in the head" is the way that an attorney in a recent product liability case described what he says is a typical outcome when a car seat collapses upon rear impact, rather than absorbing the blow. The family of the client in his case - a young girl - won $8 million in a jury case in Virginia against a car-seat maker.

The fundamental problem, say some automotive experts, is that the current federal safety standard that regulates seat strength became law 40-plus years ago and is now sadly outdated. A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that regulators may make a change.

An expert witness in the Virginia case says that he and others have been encouraging the agency to do so for decades.

Related Resource: "Collapsing Car Seats Blamed for Injuring Passengers" November 10, 2010

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