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Cooley On Cars
Smarter Driver: Rear-seat airbags are on the wayBrian Cooley takes a look at the new place you're starting to see airbags pop up.
[MUSIC] Airbags positively litter the front row of late model cars. But here, in the back, you kind of get table scraps. Maybe one of those Side curtain airbags reaches back this far. And maybe one of the recent and rare seatbelt airbags. The shoulder strap is actually an airbag housed within what looks like a traditional belt, but if there's an accident, Censors determine when the inflatable belt should deploy. Signaling the belt's tubular air bag to inflate with compressed gas. An IIHS survey found 12% of people injured in crashes were in the back seat. An even more notable rate when you recall that often that seat's empty. So automotive industry supplier TRW has now developed two rear airbags. One deploys down from the roof, the other out from the back of the front seat. But these backseat airbags look at little odd, right? But the dynamics that led them to that shape Were based on a study of German car accidents from 99 to 2013, a lot of years. [MUSIC] PRW found that the majority of of folks who were injured in the backseat in a crash either got hurt by slamming into the back of this front seat. [MUSIC] Or because they only had a shoulder belt on and nothing else restraining them, all the force was concentrated here and they got a thorax or chest injury. The airbags seek to distribute that force much more gently. [MUSIC] In smaller cars TRW expects the seat mounted airbag is gonna work out best In larger vehicles, the roof mounted design could be a better idea. And by the way, rear air bags are not just about protecting people in the back. According to Japan's Institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis. Serious injuries and fatalities to front seat occupants decline by 25 to 28% when the rear passenger is restrained, because they in the front no longer have this 1 or 200-pound projectile in the back, hitting their seat and causing more impact. Airbags back here would be expected to even further reduce front passenger injury due to rear passenger These new bags are likely to arrive in Europe first where some new rear seat crash standards are rolling out soon. The US has yet to develop a framework for even evaluating them, but the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute is working on that. So why has it taken so long to get rear air bags into momentum like this? Well, two major factors. One is economic. Car makers aren't really crazy about jacking up the MSRP by adding features, even if they're safety features sometimes, that are not going to be used very often, under appreciated and unsung if you will. Secondly, 14 states in the US right now don't even require that you use a back [INAUDIBLE] seat belt, so in many ways, this is the low-hanging fruit, even before we put some inflatables back here. It pays to double-check your state's rear seat belt laws, the availability of rear air bags in a car you buy in the future Few years. And regardless of either, that your passengers are using the restraints they've already got in the back. [MUSIC] More realities of modern driving revealed now on CNETOnCars.com. Click on Smarter Driver.