Press Releases

Rice Introduces Auto Safety Legislation to Improve Seat Back Safety in Cars

Legislation will require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to update its standards for seat back integrity in motor vehicles

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Washington, June 22, 2021 | comments

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice (NY-04) introduced the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act (H.R. 4025), a bill that will require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to update its standards for seat back integrity to address preventable fatalities and life-threatening injuries that have occurred as a result of motor vehicle seat failure during a collision. Despite these tragic incidents, NHTSA has not updated its seat back integrity standards in over fifty years. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Diana DeGette (CO-01) joined Rep. Rice as original cosponsors of the legislation.  

“It is completely unacceptable that seat back integrity standards have not been improved after so many tragedies,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “Even worse, most of those injured or killed as a result of these tragedies have been children. It is long overdue for NHTSA to address this issue and upgrade seat back safety standards to better protect vehicle occupants. I thank Senators Markey and Blumenthal for introducing this legislation in the Senate, and I’m proud to lead the companion bill in the House.”   

Supporters of the bill include the Family of Taylor Grace Warner, (killed at 17 months in seatback collapse), the Family of Jayden-Faith Fraser (suffered a traumatic brain injury at age 12, impairing her ability to walk or speak after seatback collapse), the Family of Owen and Emily Reavis (fractured skulls at ages 3 and 5 in seatback collapse), Family of Teddy Schwab (fractured skull at age 10 in seatback collapse) the Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Reports, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Kids and Car Safety, and the National Consumers League.   

“For over fifty years the government seatback standard has been so inadequate as to allow the average dining room chair to pass a test that is supposed to protect back seat passengers in a rear crash. This standard failed to protect families like that of the late Taylor Grace Warner, Jayden-Faith Fraser, Emily and Owen Reavis, and so many thousands of others. Representative Rice’s Modernizing Seatback Safety Act will finally require the auto industry and the federal government to upgrade the safety of new vehicle seatbacks for an estimated cost per vehicle that is less than the average car wash," - Jason Levine, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety 

The bill was first introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Ed Markey (MA) and Richard Blumenthal (CT) following a series of CBS News reports on seat back safety concerns. CBS News identified more than 100 people, mostly children, who were severely injured or killed in alleged seatback failures over the past 30 years. A study commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety covering 1999-2014 estimated an average of 50 child deaths per year.    

Text of the legislation can be found here.  


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