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Reclining Seats Increase Risk of Injuries and Death in Auto Accident

It is not something that we give a second thought to while riding in someone’s vehicle. In fact, most of us have probably done it at some time or the other. We are talking about reclining the passenger seat when you’re in a moving vehicle, for some quick shut eye. However, a recent study indicates that you have an increased risk of injury in an auto accident if you seat is reclining.

Trauma care doctors at the Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center studied a pattern of injuries in passengers who were in reclining seats during an auto accident. The researchers found that no matter which part of the country these accidents occurred, passengers who were in reclined seats were much more likely to suffer head injuries, spinal cord fractures, leg injuries and severe chest trauma. In fact, the study found that when the passenger was in a partially reclined seat, his fatality risk shot up by 15%, and if he was in a fully reclined seat, his fatality risk spiked by up to 70%.

Reclining seats have long been touted by auto makers as an affordable piece of luxury. However, not many passengers are aware that their risk of death in an auto accident increases dramatically, if they’re in a reclining seat at the time of the crash. Automakers have always known about these risks. That’s why most of them mention these risks in the car’s user manual. Unfortunately these warnings, when they do appear, are always in obscure fine print, the kind that hardly anyone bothers to read. That lack of warning is very disturbing to Atlanta accident lawyers, considering the dramatically diminished odds of surviving an accident if you’re in a reclining seat.

There’s very little that seatbelts and airbags can do to protect a passenger whose seat is in a reclined position. Unfortunately, auto makers have not really bothered to issue proper warnings to passengers, as they need to. It’s not enough to have a line buried in the fine print in a user manual, informing passengers that they are in danger if they’re seated in a reclined position. Considering that these features are available in all cars, automakers must do a better job of informing passengers of these much heightened risks in an accident.

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  • karin burns

    I have lost my 14 year old son, Evan, in August 2011 due to precisely this problem. He was reclined in the front passenger seat, and when the truck he was in rolled over, he suffered massive frontal head injuries and died a few hours later. He was belted but the seat belt disengaged and he flew out of the truck. My husband was driving, belted, and suffered only minor back bruises. I would like more information and updates on this particular issue, as I would like to pursue legislation on this matter. Please keep me posted. Thank you.

    Karin, I am very sorry for your loss. I think manufacturers should continue to improve their warnings as to these issues and need to develop a mechanism that will not permit the seats to decline while the car is in gear. My thoughts go out to you and your family. Rob Kat