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I wonder whether reclining the front or back seat of a car reduces the effectiveness of the seat belt in case of an accident.

Example of reclined front seats:

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Example of a reclined back seat:

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  • Given the forces involved, I think It would make it possible for someone to slide out from under the seat belts in a crash. It might also increase the chances of leg and hip fractures if the car crumples heavily. – Carey Gregory Jun 13 '16 at 14:14
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Yes.

The effect of reclined seats on mortality in motor vehicle collisions.

The reclined position is associated with increased occupant mortality in motor vehicle collisions.

Why?

flexion and compression injuries over pretensioned lap and shoulder belts resulted in severe thoracoabdominal and spine injuries in restrained occupants, with a high associated mortality. Increased lower extremity injuries from additional force loads into bolsters and panels were also noted.

Seatbelt effectiveness

  • If your car seat is reclined, a three-point restraint (lap and shoulder seat belt) becomes esentially useless because the shoulder harness moves away from the passenger. Seat belts do not work -- and, in fact, can make injuries worse -- if they are not properly designed (proper "seat belt geometry") or not properly worn.

  • Few people understand that the more space between the seat belt and the passenger's chest increases 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.

So yes, this is just a few ways reclining the seat can reduce the effectiveness of the seatbelt.

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