Drivers and front-seat passengers have benefitted from a variety of safety technologies in the past few decades. Both front and side airbags are included in many models. Seatbelts have force limiters, which release slack as force increases, and crash tensioners, which tighten seatbelts in a crash. Both are crucial to keeping the occupant inside the vehicle while avoiding undue injury from the seatbelt itself.

For many years, the back seat was considered much safer than the front, but recent studies have indicated otherwise. Back seat safety technology simply hasn’t kept up with what is available in the front, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry group that focuses on traffic safety.

The group recently reviewed 117 front-impact crashes in which a back-seat passenger was seriously injured or killed despite wearing a seatbelt. If there had been upgrades in design and safety equipment, the group says, many of those crashes would have been significantly more survivable.

For example, a number of people suffered chest injuries from seatbelts that didn’t have force limiters. Without them, passengers are bound to get hurt by the seatbelt itself.

This isn’t because there is nothing that can be done to make back seats safer. For example, the Institute suggests that automakers consider installing air bags in the back seat. They might be deployed from the ceiling of the vehicle.

In the past, studies like this one have encouraged safety upgrades, the Institute notes, and it hopes that this study will be received the same way.

“We’re confident that vehicle manufacturers can find a way to solve this puzzle in the back seat just as they were able to do in the front,” said the group’s president.

Nobody wants to be in a traffic accident. When one happens, we rely on our vehicles to keep us as safe as possible under the circumstances — but the responsibility lies with the person who caused the crash. We all need to do our part to avoid impairment, distraction and other behaviors that cause accidents. Please drive safely.