Car passengers often recline their seats on long trips and assume they are safe if they are wearing their seat belt. Yet, even if they are wearing them, the risk of severe injuries and even death are increased. Seat belts can fail due to a defect or when they are not worn properly. A regular three-point seatbelt that has a shoulder and lap belt moves away from the passenger’s body in a reclining position. This added space between the chest and belt is where the problem lies.
Studies have shown that partially reclined passengers had a 15 percent increased risk of death during car accidents, while fully reclined passengers had a 70 percent increase. When the seat belt is too loose, it can forcefully knock into the passenger, creating injury. Passengers have also been known to slide beneath seat belts that are not secure. Other accidents involve riders getting crushed in floorboards and going through back windshields.
Today’s cars and trucks have modern safety features such as airbags, warning lights, collision warnings, and evasive steering mechanisms, yet, nothing addresses reclining seats. Auto companies are aware of this safety risk, but no regulations or federal minimum standards have been enacted. The companies have been lobbying Congress to prevent this, since consumers are unaware of the potential dangers.
Although passengers cannot be forced to wear seat belts, educating them about the dangers of reclining in a moving vehicle can make all the difference. Other suggestions include installing warning systems that alert passengers not to recline; many vehicles already have warnings for regular seat belt use.
Preventing seats from reclining past a certain angle while the vehicle is in motion could also help, although passengers may feel restricted by this. The angle would also depend on the size and shape of the passenger’s body, so this may not be as effective. Another idea is to have seat belts that are integrated into the seats, which would keep the belt snug to the body, even when the passenger reclines. These are called all-belts-to-seat (ABTS) systems and are commonly used in fire and rescue trucks.
Unless auto manufacturers are required by law to make changes, these voluntary upgrades are unlikely. In the meantime, car owners and their passengers should educate themselves about these dangers and act to prevent accidents from reclining in moving vehicles.
If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, contact the experienced Asbury Park car accident lawyers at Fox & Melofchik, L.L.C. today. We will hold the negligent party responsible for your injuries so you can focus on your recovery. Complete an online form or call us at 732-493-9400 today for a free consultation.
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