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Back-seat riders a risk to drivers

In head-on car crashes, unbelted back-seat passengers not only risk injury or death to themselves, but also to the driver seated in front of them, according to University at Buffalo researchers.

Their "sled-test" studies simulating head-on crashes with crash-test dummies demonstrated the likelihood of severe head and chest trauma for driver and passenger caused by an unbelted passenger slamming into the seat of a belted driver.

"It doesn't matter if it's an adult-sized person seated behind you, a small child, or even if you have packages or luggage placed in the seat behind you, if they are not belted or safely secured, they can inflict fatal injuries to a driver," said lead researcher James Mayrose, adjunct assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The results, published in the Journal of Trauma, validate previous findings by Mayrose and co-researchers.

Although seat belt use has increased, most such laws for adults, including New York State's, do not require adult riders in rear seats to buckle up.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to the Center for Transportation Injury Research and Calspan/UB Research Center.

e-mail: hdavis@buffnews.com

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