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Risk of death in car crashes reduced if all occupants wear seat belts

e occupant in the front seat and one in the back seat, both on the same side of the car.

There were 61,834 cars with two front-seat targets; 7,969 targets were in front of a left rear occupant and 10,785 were in front of a right rear occupant. There were 5,278 cars with two rear targets; all left rear targets had a driver in front of them and 90 percent of right rear targets had a passenger in front of them. There were 9,648 cars with two left-side targets and 11,479 cars with two right-side targets.

"Restraint use by rear occupants might influence the risk of death of a front target if some rear occupants were catapulted forward. This mechanism is consistent with our finding that the risk of front target occupant death associated with a rear occupant was greater when the rear occupant was not restrained. ... Front occupants might be hurled against a target in the rear seat, especially when the impact is from the rear," the authors explain. "A side target may be easily hit by an occupant beside them in the same seat row; the target and the other occupant are not separated by a seat back."

The authors report that for a belted front seat occupant, the risk of death in a crash was increased by 20 percent if someone behind them was unrestrained. For a rear seat occupant, the risk of death was increased by 22 percent if someone in front of them was unrestrained. For a belted person on one side of the car, the risk of death was increased by 15 percent if an occupant in the same seat row on the other side of the car was not restrained.

In conclusion the authors write: "If the associations we have estimated are causal, use of restraints by rear seat occupants may prevent about 1 in 6 deaths of restrained front targets that would otherwise occur when a rear occupant is present. Use of restraints by front-seat occupants may similarly reduce the risk of death for all rear targets. Persons who wish to reduce their risk o
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Contact: Larry Zalin
206-521-1531
JAMA and Archives Journals
20-Jan-2004


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