Families Push To Change Vehicle Seat Safety Standard

CHARLOTTE, NC – There is a driving danger that many may not be aware of. Seatback failures can be devastating in a rear-end collision. Now, a bill making its way through Congress would force car manufacturers to address the issue, which has impacted families in nearly every state including the Carolinas.

“This is for you. This is a problem for everybody,” said Jason Fraser.

Jason and Michelle Fraser are working to raise awareness and make changes when it comes to seat back safety..

“We’re just kind of mission-driven that if she’s going to work hard every day at what she’s doing, then we’re going to work hard to make a change and make what happened to her and us matter,” said Michelle Fraser speaking about her daughter.

The Plano Texas family’s lives took a turn on Thanksgiving day 2016. They were driving home from feeding the homeless in downtown Dallas.

“Between my front seat, my head, and her head, it was a massive collision of the three,” described Jason.

They were rear-ended. Jason’s seat back failed. His daughter’s skull was fractured.

Their daughter, a hip hop dancing, state champion gymnast, now uses a wheelchair, is nonverbal and uses a feeding tube.

“She has blown everybody away at her progress,” said Michelle.

The issue is nationwide and involves nearly every vehicle manufacturer.. This past spring a Myrtle Beach woman settled a lawsuit with Hyundai.. Saying a seat back failure contributed to her severe injuries after she was rear-ended in a 2016 crash.

In Wake county, NC in 2014, a one-year-old died after fracturing his skull when it collided with a broken seatback during a rear end crash.

As the Fraser’s strive to improve their daughter’s life, lawmakers are working to pass legislation that may save others.

“The seat back standard was written in 1967 before seat belts were required and Lyndon Johnson was president,” said Jason Levine.

Levine is the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety. He says 50 children a year are killed due to front seatback failures.. And that the strength test standard needs updating.

The current seat strength test is rather weak. Standard patio furniture or even a desk chair could pass with ease.

Levine says the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Bill would force the hazard to be fixed for less than 5 dollars a seat.

“Require that seat to perform better in a rear crash,” said Levine.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting its companion bill in the Senate. Levine and the Frasers say they’re hopeful it makes it to president Biden’s desk soon and that changes will be made by 2024.