BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In a full car, some poor soul is relegated to the middle of the back seat, the least desirable, most uncomfortable, most "un-cool" spot in the vehicle. It also happens to be the safest.
University at Buffalo researchers studied all auto crashes involving a fatality in the U.S. between 2000 and 2003 where someone occupied the rear middle-seat.
They found that occupants of the back seat are 59 percent to 86 percent safer than passengers in the front seat and that, in the back seat, the person in the middle is 25 percent safer than other back-seat passengers.
"After controlling for factors such as restraint use, vehicle type, vehicle weight, occupant age, weather and light conditions, air-bag deployment, drug results and fatalities per crash, the rear middle seat is still 16 percent safer than any other seat in the vehicle," said Dietrich Jehle, M.D., UB associate professor of emergency medicine and lead author on the study.
Results of the study were presented at the May meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in San Francisco, Calif.
Jehle and colleagues at the Center for Transportation Injury Research (CenTIR), conducted a retrospective cohort study of fatal crashes in which there were rear-seat occupants and at least one fatality in the vehicle. CenTIR is headquartered in the Erie County Medical Center and is affiliated with the Calspan UB Research Center (CUBRC).
The data was obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The study involved two different sets of fatal crash data. Researchers first analyzed a special class of car crashes in which there were occupants in the front seat and in the middle of the back seat. Fatal crashes in which there was no occupant in the rear middle seat were excluded. This class of crashes involved 27,098 occupants. Researchers compared survival
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo