Summer brings fun, sun and, for many, family travel. Before you rent a car, check the safety features before you rent a car. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), side-Impact crashes accounted for 27 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in the United States in 2009. Though most vehicles are now equipped with side airbags, you’d be surprised to learn that many family minivans and other SUVs do not offer side airbags for rear-seated passengers, which oftentimes are children.
The tragic reality is that we often find that even in those vehicles that may provide head and torso side airbags for the driver and front passenger, the rear-seated occupants are not given the same protection. Absent the critical torso and head injury protections provided by side airbag systems, the rear-seated occupant – often the child or grandchild of the driver or front passenger – sustains catastrophic or fatal injuries in the very same accident where the parent or grandparent walk away with significantly less severe injuries, if any. While manufacturers assert all manner of design, technology and feasibility arguments to explain this disparity, the simple fact is that occupants in the rear seat are exposed to greater risks in side impacts when these systems are simply left out by the manufacturer. After years of safety campaigns imploring parents to place their children in the backseat, such cost-saving design choices are difficult to understand.