The safest seat: effect of seating position on occupant mortality

J Safety Res. 2008;39(4):433-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2008.06.003. Epub 2008 Aug 5.


Introduction: This study investigated the survival rates of occupants of passenger cars involved in a fatal crash between 2000 and 2003.

Methods: The information from every fatal crash in the United States between 2000 and 2003 was analyzed. Variables such as seat position, point of impact, rollover, restraint use, vehicle type, vehicle weight, occupant age, and injury severity were extracted from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Univariate and a full logistic multivariate model analyses were performed.

Results: The data show that the rear middle seat is safer than any other occupant position when involved in a fatal crash. Overall, the rear (2(nd) row) seating positions have a 29.1% (Univariate Analysis, p<.0001, OR 1.29, 95% CI 1.22 - 1.37) increased odds of survival over the first row seating positions and the rear middle seat has a 25% (Univariate Analysis, p<.0001, OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.17 - 1.34) increased odds of survival over the other rear seat positions. After correcting for potential confounders, occupants of the rear middle seat have a 13% (Logistic Regression, p<.001, 95% CI 1.02 - 1.26) increased chance of survival when involved in a crash with a fatality than occupants in other rear seats.

Conclusion: This study has shown that the safest position for any occupant involved in a motor-vehicle crash is the rear middle seat.

Impact on industry: The results of this research may impact how automobile manufacturers look at future rear middle seat designs. If the rear seat was to be designed exactly like its outboard counterparts (headrest, armrests, lap and shoulder belt, etc.) people may choose to sit on it more often rather than waiting to use it out of necessity due to multiple rear seat occupants.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • Automobiles / standards
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Data Collection
  • Equipment Safety
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New York
  • Odds Ratio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seat Belts / standards
  • Seat Belts / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States