Biomechanical Considerations for Assessing Interactions of Children and Small Occupants with Inflatable Seat Belts 2013-22-0004
NHTSA estimates that more than half of the lives saved (168,524) in car crashes between 1960 and 2002 were due to the use of seat belts. Nevertheless, while seat belts are vital to occupant crash protection, safety researchers continue efforts to further enhance the capability of seat belts in reducing injury and fatality risk in automotive crashes. Examples of seat belt design concepts that have been investigated by researchers include inflatable, 4-point, and reverse geometry seat belts. In 2011, Ford Motor Company introduced the first rear seat inflatable seat belts into production vehicles.
A series of tests with child and small female-sized Anthropomorphic Test Devices (ATD) and small, elderly female Post Mortem Human Subjects (PMHS) was performed to evaluate interactions of prototype inflatable seat belts with the chest, upper torso, head and neck of children and small occupants, from infants to young adolescents. Tests simulating a 6-year-old child asleep in a booster seat, with its head lying directly on its shoulder on top of the inflatable seat belt, were considered by engineering judgment, to represent a worst case scenario for interaction of an inflating seat belt with the head and neck of a child and/or small occupant.
All evaluations resulted in ATD responses below Injury Assessment Reference Values reported by Mertz et al. (2003). In addition, the tests of the PMHS subjects resulted in no injuries from interaction of the inflating seat belt with the heads, necks, and chests of the subjects. Given the results from the ATD and PMHS tests, it was concluded that the injury risk to children and small occupants from deployment of inflatable seat belt systems is low.