What Injuries Can a Backseat Passenger Suffer in an Accident?

backseat passenger

Being a driver involved in a car accident is frightening. The idea of your passengers getting injured as well can be even more terrifying. Being a passenger does not mean a decreased likelihood of personal injury. Although those in the backseats may be away from the dashboard and windshield and the injuries they may cause, these passengers are still vulnerable to harm.

If a rider is unsecured, not only are they at greater risk of injury, but also they may endanger others. Those who do not wear seat belts will continue moving after the car abruptly stops. Depending on the direction the passenger is heading, they may collide with others.

Typical Injuries Backseat Passengers Experience in Car Accidents

  • Neck injuries. Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents no matter where you sit. The forced neck flexion and extension creates soft tissue damage affecting ligaments, muscles, intervertebral joints, and nerve roots. This in turn causes a variety of symptoms ranging from stiff neck, memory loss, depression, and arm pain. Other possible neck injuries include muscle strain, compressed nerves, and herniated disks.
  • Disk injuries. Between the vertebrae of the spine are disks filled with a jelly like material. The force of a car accident may cause disks to shift out of place or herniate. In more drastic instances, disks may rupture or break. Both types of injuries place pressure on the spinal cord, leading to weakness, pain, and numbness. Disk injuries typically occur in the lumbar, or lower back area, or the cervical, or neck part, of the spine.
  • Traumatic brain injuries. When the head rapidly collides with an object, it may result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Damage from a TBI may be mild, moderate, or severe. Even a supposedly mild TBI causes significant symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, mood changes, or altered sleep patterns. More severe TBIs may cause loss of coordination, trouble waking, or seizures.
  • Broken bones. Other common car accident injuries include fractured bones. Immediate symptoms include intense pain, tingling, numbness, and limited mobility. Certain fractures may lead to complications, such as breaks along the head, spine, or pelvis, or create poor circulation in the affected area.

Common Causes of Injuries to Backseat Passengers

A major hazard for those in the backseat is a false sense of security. This misplaced confidence leads to unsafe behaviors such as sitting on another’s lap, laying down for a nap, or leaning over the front seats. Passengers may even forgo wearing seat belts.

Related hazards include overcrowding in the backseats. This leads to more passengers than there are available seat belts, leaving riders unsecured. If a collision occurs, there is less space for an individual to brace against impact.

The vehicle’s design may also be dangerous. Older cars have inadequate seat belts for backseat passengers, such as those that fasten across the lap rather than an over-the-shoulder three-point seat belt. Backseat seat belts are also less likely to have crash tensioners, which tighten around the body during hasty stops. Backseats also commonly lack airbags. Both of these issues mean less protection in case of an accident.

People who use taxis and other rideshare services are at increased risk of being injured as backseat passengers. Few adults, about one out of five, wear seat belts when using a car service. Reasons for this range from finding seat belts uncomfortable to believing short trips pose few dangers. This reluctance puts these backseat riders and others in the vehicle at risk.

Can Backseat Passengers Injure Others in a Car Accident?

When a car suddenly stops, such as from a collision, momentum continues to propel the people inside. Seat belts hold the wearer in place, reducing the chance of injury. Unrestrained passengers pose a hazard to themselves and others in the vehicle, as they will continue moving.

One medical research paper examined the effects unrestrained backseat passengers have on front seat passengers and drivers in car collisions. It analyzed information from a year’s worth of fatal car accidents in Sweden. The paper concluded seat belt wearing front passengers were more likely to be injured with unsecured backseat passengers in the same vehicle. This risk was present in low speeds, including those below 45 kilometers, or 27 miles per hour.

The danger of unbelted backseat passengers is illustrated in a British public service announcement (PSA) titled Julie Knew Her Killer. The titular driver, Julie, crashes head-on with another vehicle. Her son, sitting unsecured behind her, launches forward and collides with Julie’s skull. He survives with broken facial bones, but Julie dies on impact. The PSA ends with a voiceover reminding viewers to always wear a seat belt.

How Can Backseat Passengers Stay Safe?

No matter what quality of seat belts are available, using restraints are safer than remaining unsecured. Passengers should stay fastened throughout the ride. If possible, be choosy about where to sit. If there is choice between a middle seat with a lap belt or a window seat with a three-point belt, opt for the location and restraints that provide greater protection.

Just as unrestrained passengers are a danger to others in the vehicle, loose objects can also harm others. Items such as tissue boxes, purses, books, or umbrellas should be stored before the drive begins. If there is no storage pocket in front of the backseats, utilize the glove box, trunk, or whatever else is available.

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Represent Clients Injured in a Collision

If you were a backseat passenger who was injured in a collision, do not hesitate to contact the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Our experienced attorneys will help you understand the claims process and advise you on your next steps. We will fight to ensure you receive the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.