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Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on IIHS Rear Seat Passenger Safety Test Ratings
(Washington, D.C.-March 14, 2023) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report showing rear seat passenger protection falls short in most midsize SUVs; of the 14 they tested, only four earned “good” ratings. This important and insightful data points to the urgent need for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to move expeditiously toward issuing a final rule on rear seat belt reminders as was Congressionally mandated in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21, Pub. L. 112-141) by October 1, 2015. This intolerable delay of a commonsense safety countermeasure must end.
Between 2013 and 2019, on average nearly 900 unbelted rear seat occupants of passenger vehicles and light trucks died in crashes each year on U.S. roads. An average of 15,000 unbelted second-row occupants are injured annually, according to the latest statistics available. Children and teens constitute a large proportion of rear seat occupants represented in the crash data. Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has definitively linked seat belt reminder systems to increasing seat belt use and saving lives.
In addition, over a decade ago, Congress directed NHTSA to issue two critical rulemakings that would improve the safety of child passengers. This includes improving the ease of use of the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system as well as more accurate crash testing for child safety seats during frontal impact crashes. These rulemakings also have yet to be completed.
In 2021, an estimated nearly 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, the most since 2005. Among passenger vehicle occupant fatalities that year, 50 percent were unrestrained when restraint use was known. We urge the U.S. Department of Transportation to prioritize the issuance of these proven solutions to address the public health disaster occurring on our roadways every day.
Along with federal rear seat and child passenger safety protections, Advocates urges states to enact primary enforcement all-occupant seat belt laws and comprehensive child passenger safety laws. Advocates’ Roadmap to Safety report provides a guide for state elected officials on needed changes to improve these laws as well as countermeasures that must be advanced at the federal level. Proven safety solutions are languishing while motorists are perishing. This must change.