Ride-sharing prompts NHTSA to investigate rear-seat safety


Toyota Land Cruiser showing off airbags

Toyota Land Cruiser showing off airbags

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With the rise in popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft comes an unusual consequence: More people are sitting in the back seat of cars.

This, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is a good reason to amp up back seat safety research. For now, NHTSA's testing only covers front-seat passengers, but that will all change in 2019 when it straps crash test dummies into the rear seat and slams obstacles into brand new vehicles. 

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Automakers do have to meet certain side impact standards that extend into the rear seat and every new car sold in the United States includes curtain airbags designed to protect rear-seat passengers' heads. However, only a small handful of new cars include side-impact airbags intended to protect a rear-seat passenger—and even when they are available, they are usually an extra-cost, rarely-ordered option.

The safety concern is especially acute in places like New York, where taxicabs are a default means of transportation and more than half of all riders don't buckle up (compared to about 87 percent nationally). Bloomberg reports that hospitals in the New York City area even have a name for what happens when unbelted passengers are in a wreck: "partition face."

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Look for the first findings from the new rear-seat safety measurements to come out in mid to late 2019.

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