While a lot of attention is paid to protecting the people in the front seats, there’s new concern about what happens in the back seat during a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looked at 117 crashes in which rear-seat occupants were killed or seriously injured. The most common type of injury was to the chest.  Researchers found rear-seat chest injuries were mostly due to the force from the shoulder belt. 

The second most common type of injury type in the study was to the head. While many of the head injuries were in crashes considered unsurvivable, when the rear seat passengers did survive, they hit their heads against the vehicle’s interior.

IIHS researchers are using this information to develop a new front crash test, that will evaluate how well people are protected in the front and back seats. 

While the IIHS isn't recommending a specific solution for the back seat, they point out rear seats with frontal airbags, seat belts with tensioners and force limiters, and inflatable seat belts could be included in the combination of technologies that better protect people enjoying the ride in the second row.