On May 10, 1988 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a Safety Recommendation authored by then-Chairman, Jim Burnett. The NTSB conducted a seatbelt performance study using 167 real-world crashes. One of their findings indicated that in order for vehicle occupants to be properly protected, seatbelts must be worn correctly. Because most front seats are designed to recline, individuals are often unaware of the dangers of reclining seat backs while the vehicle is in motion.

The NTSB recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “limit the angle of inclination allowable in reclining seats in passenger vehicles to no greater than the maximum angle that can safely be used with a lap/shoulder belt”. No action was taken by the NHTSA, who felt the manufacturers warnings were sufficient.

We reviewed the 2008 Ford Focus Owner’s Guide, which stated: “Always drive and ride with your seat back upright and the lap belt snug and low on the hips”. No further explanation is given. While the Quick Reference Guide provided with the 2008 Ford Focus does address multiple features of the vehicle, seatbelts are not mentioned. Further, no warnings or instructions were found on the actual seatbelt.

The Seattle CIREN Team at the University of Washington Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Study studied the effects of reclining seat backs in collisions. They concluded that “fully reclined seats are an independent risk factor for death in motor vehicle collision.”

If you or a loved one have been the victim of an injury due to a reclining seat back in a car wreck, please contact us today for an initial consultation to discuss your legal options for making the manufacturers responsible. If you have questions or need additional information, call Law Offices of Gary Green toll free and without obligation at 1-888-442-7947 or send us an e-mail at ggreen@gGreen.com.