Rear-seat safety belts reduce injuries, study says


If you are not wearing a seat belt and your car is in a serious accident, then the back seat is just as dangerous as the front passenger seat, according to an analysis of 2,000 crashes involving Volvos in Sweden. The analysis was made by Volvo Car Corp. and the Swedish Road Safety Office.

Rear-seat passengers who are not wearing belts are far more likely to be hurt in a crash than belted passengers, the study confirms. But Volvo safety experts add that unbelted passengers in back are a hazard not only to themselves but also to people in the front seats. In an accident, Volvo said, unrestrained rear passengers can hit the front seats hard enough to injure people in front.

The automaker is trying to sell cars by convincing consumers that Volvos offer more protection in a crash. It stresses that it provides lap and shoulder belts even for the middle rear passenger, while most cars lack a shoulder belt for that person. But the findings, although based on Volvos in Sweden, are applicable to all makes of cars on American roads, said Dr. Carl Valenziano, the head of the American Trauma Society.

Volvo collects the data because the cars it sells in Sweden come with an insurance policy. The study, released last fall in Europe at a conference on rear-seat safety and distributed by Volvo last month at the New York Auto Show, was based on data from five years in the 1970s; it showed that only 7.7 percent of the rear passengers in cars involved in accidents had been wearing belts.

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