Hatchback seat safety alert

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The Independent Online
Millions of car passengers are at risk from fatal flaws in the seat design of hatchback and estate cars, a television report will claim tonight.

The rear seats of most hatchbacks and estates can be lowered to give more luggage space. But in head-on collisions the catches which hold the seats upright are not strong enough to stop luggage being thrown violently forward, pushing the seats into the bodies of passengers sitting in the back, ITV's World in Action claims.

The programme features new tests re-creating head-on collisions with heavy luggage in the boot.

World in Action cites three examples of accidents involving passengers in hatchbacks: a three-year-old boy was killed and his five-year-old sister crippled when a home computer in the boot hurtled forward in a collision; a 13-year-old girl was left in a wheelchair after a similar accident; and a 27-year-old woman back-seat passenger died after a hatchback was in a head-on collision in which other passengers escaped with minor injuries.

Both the RAC and the Consumers' Association are calling for government regulations to make car manufacturers introduce new safety measures. "Experience and evidence suggests that in head-on collisions many rear seats in hatchbacks and estates are not strong enough to contain the weight of luggage," the RAC's road safety manager, Kevin Delaney, said.