Sydney: Front seats are safer than rear seats in a car, thanks to the addition of new safety features over the years.
"We could save more lives and prevent more injuries if we paid the same attention to the rear seat of cars as we have to the front seat," says University of New South Wales associate professor Lynne Bilston, who led the study.
Previous studies in older cars have shown that occupants sitting in the back seat were at lower risk of serious injury and death in crashes, says Bilston.
"However, since the mid-1990s, front seats have improved enormously with airbags and better seatbelt designs in the front driver and passenger positions," she says, according to a New South Wales release.
These safety features are often overlooked in case of the rear seat, even in newer cars, meaning the front seat is now relatively safer than the rear seat for adult passengers.
While all adults in newer cars are relatively safer in the front seat, the effect is greater for older adults.
Bilston and colleagues compared the risk of injury to front and rear seat occupants in cars made between 1990 and 1996 with those travelling in newer cars.
They found that while newer cars are safer than older cars, significant reductions in head, thoracic and abdominal injuries were only seen in front seat occupants.
There are currently no regulations on how cars should be designed to protect rear seat occupants, Bilston says.