The most dangerous place to be sitting during a car crash was long thought to be up front: The "death seat" is the one next to the driver, according to Dictionary.com. But that's outdated, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says. The back seat has become the more dangerous place to be, CNET reports, not so much because things have changed back there, but because manufacturers have done more to make the front seat safer. David Harkey, the institute's president, says its crash tests helped push manufacturers to improve protections for people in the front seat, and it's working on ways to assess safety in the back. "We hope a new evaluation will spur similar progress in the back seat," Harkey said.
Federal law requires frontal airbags to protect front-seat occupants, NBC reports, and other airbag systems have been added for protection in the event of rollovers and side impacts. Most of those improvements increase safety up front. In addition, the institute found that seat belts in the back seat can themselves cause injuries in some collisions. The insurance industry trade group's new study found that passengers in the second row of seats often suffered more severe injuries than people in front during a frontal crash. One addition that could help is front-mounted airbags for the rear-seats passengers, the institute said. (Read more car safety stories.)