Poorly designed or defective automobile seats can cause unnecessary injuries in rear impact collisions. These injuries could have been prevented had the seatback designs and manufacturing defects been replaced with proven safety measures that have been readily available for a long time. Problems with automobile seats can be attributed to non-sturdy and defective parts, including seatbacks, seat tracks, and recliner mechanisms.
A seatback should be able to keep the vehicle's occupants safe by keeping the individual from moving forward and impacting the interior of the vehicle in a collision, or even worse being completely ejected. Automobile seats are not required to be tested in crash tests, and there have been recent tests showing the insufficiency of seatback standards. Safety standards today do not suffice in preventing fatalities and serious injuries are resulting from the lack of proper seat strength standards.
There are estimates that in 1990 there were 1,100 fatalities and 1,600 serious injuries due to seat collapses in rear-ended collisions. When the seatback collapses rearward in a rear impact a driver can lose control of the vehicle, causing further injuries. A seatback failure can also interfere with the restraint system, allowing vehicle occupants to impact rear seat objects in a rear-impact collision because they are not properly restrained. In some circumstances the vehicle occupants can be completely ejected from the vehicle when they have slid out from under the safety restraints. A front seat collapse can injure the rear seat passengers in a rear-impact collision, and the rear seat occupants can become trapped underneath the collapsed seatback.
The safety standards for automobile seats are viewed as being too lenient and not updated to protect vehicle occupants from injuries otherwise avoidable. It is not required for automobile seats to go through crash tests and is so weak it leaves safety experts wondering why new standards are not made. Tests that have been conducted on vehicles show that most seatbacks are unable to safely withstand impacts, especially bucket seatbacks and split bench seatbacks.
Seatbacks are most affected by rear-impact collisions because a number of seatback defects can occur. A particular study found that in rear-impact collisions that had a front seat collapse occupants ended up being ejected from the seat even at low speeds. Some experts feel that if seatback strength were increased it would limit the number of seatback defects that result from collisions. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated their desire to strengthen the requirements on federal requirements they have yet to change them.