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February 9, 2007

What's the safest place to sit in a car?


Short answer shorter: the middle back seat.

Unfortunately, it's the equivalent of the "eat your peas" position, to wit: the least comfortable seat in and of itself, with a second-rate headrest (if indeed there's one at all), the hump in the floor for your feet to contend with and, most likely, seat belts which have been stuffed way back down the crack, making them difficult (at best) to use.

Hey, them's the breaks — better than breaking your bones in a crash.

Here's Anahad O'Connor's exegesis of the matter, this past Tuesday's (February 6, 2007) New York Times Science section "Really?" feature.

    The Claim: The Back Seat of a Car Is the Safest Place to Sit

    The Facts: Automobiles may not be the safest mode of transport, but many people wonder whether where they choose to sit can improve their odds.

    According to several studies, it can, and the spot that is generally the least desirable, it turns out, is also the safest: the middle of the back seat. Uncomfortable, yes, but it’s also the seat that typically has the largest “crush zone,” an area around which the car collapses in a collision, ultimately protecting an occupant.

    One large study of the subject, by researchers at the University of Buffalo in 2006, analyzed more than 60,000 fatal crashes and found that passengers in the middle back seat were 86 percent more likely to survive than those in the front seats, and 25 percent more likely to survive than those in the other rear seats.

    But the study also found that about half of all adults in the middle back seat neglected to wear seat belts. They were about three times as likely to die in a crash as middle-back-seat passengers who did buckle up. And not wearing a seat belt in the back can have unfortunate consequences for those up front. One study found that even when passengers in the front wore seat belts, their odds of dying were five times as great if those in the back were not belted, a result of back-seat passengers’ being thrown forward on impact.

    The Bottom Line: In an accident, the middle back seat is the safest place to be.

February 9, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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I hate to be a snarky ass, but wouldnt the bottom line also be that even if you in the back seat, its safer to put in your seatbelt? for you and your friends/family in the front seat?

Posted by: Shell | Feb 9, 2007 7:52:04 PM

Sounds like the seat I always get on the planes....I take the very back seat. I've been told its the safest seat available, even though it is usually the noisiest, bumpiest, and generally doesn't have a window available.

And beyond that, even if we all end up dying, I still die last :-)

Posted by: clifyt | Feb 9, 2007 7:49:54 PM

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