A recent study has shown that reclining in an automobile could be fatal. Harborview Medical Center Director of Emergency Services, Dr. Eileen Bulger, specializes in trauma and critical care. She conducted a study after noticing a pattern of increased injuries and fatalities in reclined seated passengers compared to upright passengers. The study showed that partially reclined passengers involved in an accident increased their risk of death by 15 percent. Fully reclined passengers increased their risk by 70 percent.
There appears to be an unsophisticated reason for the increase in injuries and fatalities among reclined passengers. Simply put, reclined passengers make seatbelt and airbag functions less effective. Dr. Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; the organization that conducts crash safety tests states, “What people need to understand is that when we test vehicles for how well they'll protect you in a crash, we are assuming that people are seated upright in the seat." Lund stated that safety tests have never been done with the seat reclined. Lard went on to state that "Having the seat reclined means you're not protected the way the vehicle was designed to protect you.”
Further complicating the problem is the blatant lack of knowledge regarding the dangers of reclining in a motor vehicle. Most motor vehicle manuals warn of the potential risk of reclining in a passenger seat. However, the majority of the general public neglects to take the time to read the owner’s manual. Few people understand that the more space between the seat belt and the passenger's chest, the greater the risk of death or serious injury; caused when your body either slams against the seat belt itself or "submarines" and slides beneath the seat belt.
Car manufacturers should provide some type of warning, whether in writing on the visor, to better educate the public. However, car manufacturers have yet to provide such warnings. The easiest way to avoid these types of horrific injuries or deaths is to educate the public on the dangers and risks of sitting in a reclined seat. While taking a quick nap might be convenient, it could be the difference between relatively minor injuries and possible death.