The dangers of reclining your car seat.

Snapshots of life at home.
Sept. 7 2007 4:24 PM

Death Nap

The dangers of tilting back the front seat—don't do it!

(Continued from Page 1)

And yet a 2001 paper published in the Journal of Trauma details the injuries of other reclining passengers, as does a 1991 paper in another medical journal, Injury. In 2005, a woman named Tami Martin sued Ford after she'd become a paraplegic, in an accident in which the driver fell asleep at the wheel and hit an ambulance that had stopped at a red light. Martin had been asleep, seat tilted back all the way, feet on the dashboard. She was riding in a Ford Aerostar minivan. Her lawyers argued to the jury that her seatbelt didn't work because she was reclining: She slid forward, and then her torso flipped over the belt, and she injured her spinal cord. The minivan driver and the driver of the ambulance, who were sitting upright and wearing seatbelts, were unharmed.

At the trial, Ford made the old argument that a warning in an owner's manual is warning enough. Martin's lawyers countered with a 2005 TV ad showing a guy lying back in a Ford with his feet (in cowboy boots) propped up. The lawyers brought in an expert who said that fewer than 5 percent of people read their owner's manual. (Tyson says NHTSA has no numbers to contradict this statistic.) The jury awarded Martin $12.9 million, even though the Ford she was riding in met every federal safety standard. Martin offered to give Ford half the money back if the company would agree to start issuing warnings. Ford said no and appealed the verdict instead.


In another case, Kent Emison, the lawyer who wrote about this for Trial, which is published by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now called the American Association for Justice), won a $59 million verdict against Toyota on behalf of a man who had both legs amputated below the knee after an accident in which his seat was reclined. Emison points out that along with warning labels, there are other ways for automakers to reduce the danger of reclining seats. They could install a warning bell, or make it impossible to put the car in drive unless all the seats are upright. But he says that NHTSA won't require any safety measures, even a label, because of the lobbying power of the car manufacturers. And because the automakers fight hard against these lawsuits, it's only worth it to bring them on behalf of people who don't recover from their injuries. Emison also thinks that a lot of people don't sue because they don't realize that reclining car seats are to blame.

So, if the government and the automakers won't tell you, I will. Don't tilt the front seat back! No matter how much more comfortable your nap will be, you don't want to end up, like I did, in intensive care.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 21 2014 8:38 AM An Implanted Wearable Gadget Isn’t as Crazy as You’d Think Products like New Deal Design’s UnderSkin may be the future.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.