Saturday, May 27, 2006

good motoring
Back seat is best
The rear right-hand seat is the safest, says H. Kishie Singh

Most of our VIPs babus sit on the left-hand side of the rear seat. This is the preferred and accepted place if you are in a chauffer-driven car. One of the reasons attributed to this was that by sitting on the left side, the seat on the right was vacant and this allowed the VIP’s hand to swing up and salute. Had he been sitting on the right hand side, he would be cramped with no space for the right hand to swing up.

This seating arrangement however has its downside. Besides making it impractical for the driver, who has to go all the way to the rear left door to let the VIP out, tests have shown that the unsafest seat, after the passenger seat in the front, is the rear left seat. The safest seat is the one behind the driver. Tests have also shown that in case of an impending collision, the driver will try and save himself. It is a simple act of self-preservation. In such a scenario, the passenger in the seat immediately behind the driver is the safest. Even if the seat belt is not worn, the backrest of the front seat is well padded and will absorb some of the impact.

If the passenger in the rear left is without a seat belt, he may be pitched forward due to secondary impact all the way to the dashboard or windscreen. Sure, there is a backrest in the front seat but in case of a severe impact, the backrest—if the front seat is unoccupied—may collapse. Remember, the backrest is hinged and designed to move back and forward. It will do just that in case of an accident.

Remember the bad old days in the American Deep South. Blacks were not allowed to sit in front in the bus. It was racism at its best. Then one day, they were allowed to sit in the front and since none of them had ever sat there they all flocked to the front seats.

Was it a change of heart of the racist red-necks? Possibly. The fact that passengers in the front seats were more susceptible to serious injuries and fatalities and the rear seats were safer could have had some bearing on this decision.

Happy motoring.