Defective Vehicle Seats Allowed By NHTSA To Kill and Maim for Decades

March, 2016

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Fair Warning editor Myron Levin has published an excellent article that cites several crash victim tragedies.  The article notes:

“For decades, safety regulators and the auto industry have known that many seats can fail in moderate- to high-speed rear-end crashes. When the seat collapses, the driver or front seat passenger can slide rearward out of the seat belt and be launched headfirst into the backseat, badly injuring a backseat passenger or being paralyzed or killed himself.

Since the 1990s, automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have instructed parents to put young children in the backseat to avoid injury from an inflating airbag. But critics say they have failed to provide another crucial piece of information: Due to the risk of seat failure in a rear collision, the safest place for a child is behind an unoccupied seat, or else behind the lightest person in the front.

NHTSA officials “are the safety experts,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit watchdog group. “They know the seatbacks have been collapsing for years. They know that if you put a kid behind an occupied seat, you’ve got a problem. And they’ve never shared that expertise with the public.’’

On March 9 the center filed a petition urging NHTSA to modify its child seating recommendations, and to require automakers to state in owner’s manuals that, whenever possible, children should sit behind an empty front seat or behind the lightest person. Such warnings are essential, the petition said, because of NHTSA’s decades-long failure to require sturdier seats that perform better in rear crashes. In a letter to NHTSA Administrator Mark R. Rosekind, the group also urged the agency to act favorably on a separate petition, filed last September, to upgrade its seatback standard. It’s uncertain when NHTSA will act on the petitions.

Adopted in 1967, the federal seat standard is nearly a half-century old. To support their view that the standard is a joke, safety engineers have run tests showing that lawn and banquet chairs, and even cardboard seats, are sturdy enough to meet the strength requirements. NHTSA officials themselves have repeatedly acknowledged that the standard is outdated, but say their hands are tied.”  See


For who has tied NHTSA’s hands and how see


Freeing NHTSA to do its job requires changes – for the better – all the way up to the White House.  And the Congress.  And the Courts.



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