Popular wisdom has long suggested that rear seated occupants are better protected than front seat occupants in the event of a frontal crash. However, relatively recent studies have begun suggesting that the great passive safety advancements seen over the last couple of decades have disproportionately benefited front seated occupants. The objective of this study was to quantify the difference in fatality risk between restrained rear and front seated occupants involved in frontal passenger vehicle crashes by using the most recently available U.S. real-world crash data. Data from the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System were queried, and logistic regression modelling was used to evaluate the relative risk of fatal injury in rear versus front seat occupants. The model was adjusted for occupant age, occupant gender, vehicle model year, and vehicle type. The key finding is that in the newest model year vehicles (2007-2016), the rear seat carries a higher risk of fatality than the front seats (RR 1.65, 95% CI 1.51-1.79). These findings supplement and agree with previous literature and suggest that advances in rear seat occupant protection are falling behind occupant protection for front seat occupants and should be more heavily emphasised in the future vehicle fleet.
Keywords: fatality risk; injury risk; occupant protection; passenger vehicle crash; rear seat