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Car and Driver: Mmm Mmm Mmm: NHTSA to Start Putting Crash Test Dummies in the Back Seat

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Your car or truck’s back seat is about to get a whole lot safer, and you can credit Uber and Lyft for it. Automotive News reports that starting in 2019 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will begin placing crash test dummies in the rear seats of the vehicles it tests as part of its 5-Star Safety Ratings Program.

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For nearly 40 years the NHTSA has tested only for driver and front-seat passenger crash protection, but thanks in part to the rise in popularity of app-based mobility services, the NHTSA will now test for rear-seat passenger safety as well. While a number of automakers have voluntarily added safety features like seat belt pre-tensioners, seat belt airbags, and curtain airbags to the rear seats, the lack of compulsory testing has resulted in rear passenger protection receiving less attention than that of front-seat riders.

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Besides ensuring a safer rear passenger compartment, the NHTSA’s revised program also will apply additional scrutiny to the safety of children riding in car seats. According to AN, some safety advocates believe that advances in front-passenger safety, which test on adult-sized dummies, are leading to seats that are actually more dangerous for children riding in car seats. This is due to the fact that, after researchers at the NHTSA discovered that front seats that remain rigid in the event of an accident can result in whiplash-like injuries, seats began to be manufactured with a little bit of give to avoid such injuries. Unfortunately, seats that are designed to give a little in the event of an accident are at risk of seat-back collapse. In such an event, the seat-back can strike a child in a car seat, resulting in potentially fatal injuries.

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The decision by the NHTSA to begin testing rear passenger safety comes none too soon. With Toyota’s recently announced partnership with Uber, Volkswagen’s decision to invest $300 million in ride-sharing services, and General Motors putting money into Lyft, it seems more of us will be spending our time riding in back.

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