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Front Seats Can Become "Missiles" in Car Accidents

Lisa Parker describes the front seats of many automobiles as veritable "missiles" during a car accident. When a small child is seated on the rear bench behind the driver, that missile can become deadly.

While most children will only be injured, those injuries often take the form of mild-to-severe brain injuries.

That was the case in Virginia three years ago, when a family car was rear-ended by another driver traveling at less than 30 mph. A relatively mild car accident, the two-year-old seated behind the driver's seat nonetheless suffered a severe brain injury when the front seat flew back towards her, striking her head.

Three years later, her family was awarded nearly $10 million in a defective product lawsuit against the seat's manufacturer, Johnson Controls. The problem, as Johnson Controls plans their appeal, is that the seat technically met all safety guidelines enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So did a folding lawn chair and one made out of cardboard.

In fact, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 207, which regulates standards related to seating in automobiles, has not been updated since it was first passed - in 1968.

42 years later, many feel that young passengers are in danger from front seats that lack the support system to successfully absorb an outside impact. While the case mentioned above involved a Virginia family, the issue at play is one that has implications around the country, including Maryland.

It's not the only instance of serious injury caused by faulty seats and, unless the NHTSA takes action, will probably not be the last.

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