A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that better restraint systems are needed in vehicle back seats. The study involved front crashes where belted rear-seat passengers were killed or seriously injured.
In the rear seat, side airbags protect passengers in a side crash. But there are no front airbags for rear-seat passengers, and the seat belts don’t have crash tensioners or force limiters. A force limiter is a small metal rod built into the seat belt retractor that allows the seat belt to unspool a little during a crash and prevent chest injuries.
Another solution is an inflatable seat belt that inflates in a crash to distribute the force more evenly across the torso and chest. Ford and Mercedes-Benz have developed such belts.