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Technical Paper

Changes in Vehicle Designs from Frontal Offset and Side Impact Crash Testing

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been conducting frontal offset crash tests of new passenger vehicles and providing comparative crashworthiness information to the public since 1995. This program has resulted in large improvements in frontal crashworthiness largely because vehicle structures have been redesigned to prevent significant collapse of the occupant compartment. In late 2002, IIHS began a side impact crash test program in which the side-impacting barrier has been designed to simulate the geometry of the front ends of SUVs and pickups, which pose a much larger threat in side impacts than the lower front ends of cars. It is anticipated that this program, too, will result in changes in vehicle structure, in this case the structure of the vehicle side pillars and door hardware. Good performance in the side impact test also is likely to require installation of side airbags (or comparable system) to protect the head and/or chest.
Technical Paper

Comparison of EuroSID-2 and SID-IIs in Vehicle Side Impact Tests with the IIHS Barrier

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recently developed and evaluated a new side impact barrier to represent the front profile of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles for a new consumer information program. In the development of this program, two dummies were considered for assessing driver injury risk in side-struck vehicles: EuroSID-2 (50th percentile male dummy) and SID-IIs (5th percentile female dummy). The purpose of this study was to compare injury responses and kinematics for these two dummies in side impact crash tests. The findings suggest that SID-IIs will be more effective in driving relevant improvements in side impact crash protection.
Technical Paper


Since 1995, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has evaluated the crashworthiness of more than 120 new vehicle models in a 64 km/h (40 mi/h), 40 percent offset deformable barrier crash test. The offset test is especially demanding of the vehicle structure, requiring only 40 percent of the vehicle width to manage the crash energy. Many of the models originally tested have been redesigned and retested, with the majority producing better structural performance than their predecessors. Critics of such testing have suggested that these tests are forcing vehicle stiffness too high for compatibility with other vehicles and other crash modes. IIHS has studied the relationship between vehicle mass, stiffness, and front-end length to the structural rating in the offset test.
Technical Paper

Child Restraint Durability in High-Speed Crashes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety installed a variety of infant, toddler, and booster restraints in vehicles subjected to high-speed frontal offset crash tests to assess the effects of severe crashes on the structural integrity of the restraints and their associated hardware (harnesses, buckles, clips, etc.). The child restraints were inspected before and after each test, and all damage was recorded. In some of the tests, forces and accelerations were recorded on the appropriate size child dummy properly secured in the child restraint. After a single severe crash, most restraints had sustained some damage, albeit minimal. Repeated tests indicated that these child restraints could withstand the forces of an additional crash with only minor additional damage. Dummy injury results suggest that current injury risk curves overstate the risk of neck injury to most properly restrained children.
Technical Paper

Driver Fatalities in Frontal Crashes of Airbag-Equipped Vehicles: A Review of 1989-96 NASS Cases

Using data from the National Automotive Sampling System/Crashworthiness Data System (NASS/CDS) for1995-96, this study updates previous analyses of driver fatalities in airbag-equipped vehicles in the NASS/CDS database for 1989-93 and 1989-94. A total of 59 cases of frontal crashes of airbag-equipped vehicles with driver fatalities were identified in these 8 years of NASS/CDS data, but in 9 cases the fatalities were not related to the impacts (e.g., fire, medical condition). Vehicle intrusion was the cause of the fatal injuries in 27 cases, and 7drivers died from injuries sustained when they were either partially or totally ejected from their vehicles. There was one case in which the airbag did not deploy, although the crash conditions indicated it should have. One driver died from contact with a nonintruding vehicle surface, and the causes of the fatal injuries in 5 cases were unknown.
Technical Paper

Crash Compatibility Issue in Perspective

Despite extensive media coverage to the contrary, mismatches among cars, utility vehicles, and pickups in crashes is not a big problem from a societal perspective. On the other hand, if you are riding in a small car that is about to be hit by a big utility vehicle, then the problem looms large. Crash compatibility has attracted a lot of attention lately because utility vehicles have become so popular. The concern is that their designs pose a threat to people riding in smaller cars. But the fact is, two-vehicle collisions between cars (including passenger vans) and utility vehicles or pickups account for only about 15 percent of all car occupant deaths. As a result, countermeasures that focus on making utility vehicles and pickups more crash compatible, however appropriate, can have only small effects on crash injuries and fatalities. On the other hand, improvements in crashworthiness not only reduce crash incompatibilities but also protect across a wider spectrum of crashes.
Technical Paper

Factors Contributing to Front-Side Compatibility: a Comparison of Crash Test Results

The occupants of passenger vehicles struck in the side by another vehicle are more likely to be fatally injured than are occupants of the striking vehicle. The risk of fatality in a side-struck car is higher still when the striking vehicle is a pickup or utility vehicle rather than a passenger car of the same mass. This suggests there are other factors inherent to pickup and utility vehicle design in addition to mass that contribute to this increased risk. In this paper, results are presented from a series of six 90-degree, front-to-side crash tests conducted with both vehicles moving. The side-struck vehicle, a Mercury Grand Marquis with a BioSID (biofidelic side impact dummy) in the driver position, was moving at 24 km/h (15 mi/h) in all tests.
Technical Paper

Crash Test Evaluation of Whiplash Injury Risk

A BioRID (biofidelic rear impact dummy) representing a 50th percentile adult male was seated in the front passenger seat of six new vehicle models in a series of low-speed crash tests. The neck injury criterion (NIC) and other dummy responses that may indicate whiplash injury risk were recorded. Both front-into- rear and rear-into-barrier tests with an average velocity change of 11 km/h were conducted. Head restraints were tested in both adjusted (up) and unadjusted (down) positions. Damage to all models was minor, and longitudinal vehicle accelerations were low (less than 7 g). Neck extension angles and bending moments were much less than injury assessment reference values (IARV) (80 degrees and 57 Nm, respectively), indicating low risk of hyperextension injuries. Neck tension and transverse forces also were less than IARVs used to indicate the risk of more serious neck injuries.
Technical Paper

Potential Strategies for Improving Crash Compatibility in the U.S. Vehicle Fleet

After decades of focus on car designs that improve the crash protection of occupants in their own cars, some theorists have refocused their attention on vehicle aggressivity, or more generally, the compatibility of vehicles when they crash with each other. Real-world fatal crash data reveal important issues of compatibility related to the broad mix of types and sizes of vehicles in the fleet. However, these data also show that incompatibility among passenger vehicles has accounted for only a small proportion of crash fatalities on U.S. roads and that modifications of the more aggressive vehicles, though appropriate and necessary, will have relatively small effects. Interventions to curtail the development and sale of the largest and heaviest passenger vehicles would be ineffective.
Technical Paper

Fatalities in Air Bag-Equipped Cars: A Review of 1989-93 NASS Cases

A review of 39 driver fatalities in 1990-93 cars with air bags from the National Accident Sampling System indicated most of these fatalities were due to causes unrelated to frontal air bag performance. Two-thirds occurred in side-impact or rollover crashes, in which air bag effectiveness is limited; of 15 frontal crash fatalities, 6 died of causes unrelated to the frontal impact and 5 in cars with severe intrusion. The remaining four fatalities, three of whom were unbelted, were in moderate to high severity crashes which could have been survivable; however the deploying air bags, instead of protecting, probably contributed to the fatal injuries. A similar review of 12 fatalities of unbelted drivers in cars without air bags revealed 3 could have been prevented by air bags, but 4 were in crashes that could have put them in position to be injured by the air bag.
Technical Paper

Deformable Barriers and Occupant Protection in Offset Frontal Car-to-Car Crashes

Since 1978, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been testing the frontal crash protection provided by new cars in the United States. In the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), vehicles are crashed into a stationary, full width, rigid barrier at 35 mi/h (56 km/h). Occupant protection is measured by comparing accelerations, forces, and deflections experienced by the head, chest, and upper legs of 50th percentile male Hybrid II or III anthropometric dummies restrained in the driver and right front seat passenger positions. The procedures are similar to those specified in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208, except that the speed is 5 mi/h faster resulting in a test that requires the car to manage 36 percent more energy.
Technical Paper

Intrusion and Lower Extremity Injury Risk In Offset Frontal Test Crashes

Lower extremity injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes are both frequent and associated with considerable long-term impairment. Deformation of a vehicle's occupant compartment resulting in intrusion into the foot area is often cited as a source of many of these injuries. Similarly, collisions involving only a portion of a vehicle's front structure are typically said to produce greater intrusion than fully engaged crashes. The relationship between occupant compartment intrusion and the risk of lower extremity injuries was examined through a series of offset frontal crash tests of 1984-89 Oldsmobile Cieras. Results from both car-to-car and car-to-barrier test crashes with instrumented dummies confirm that there is a relationship between occupant compartment deformation and the loads acting on the lower extremities of vehicle occupants, even when crash severity has been controlled.
Technical Paper

Motor Vehicle Occupant Fatalities in Four States with Seat Belt Use Laws

Seat belt use laws in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Illinois reduced front seat occupant fatalities by an estimated 16, 10, 6 and five percent respectively, during the months in 1985 they were in effect. Only the reduction for New York was statistically significant, but the similarity between the pattern of fatality reductions and the pattern of increases in seat belt use lends credibility to the estimates. Each reduction was less than expected given the known effectiveness of seat belts and the observed rates of use in noncrash populations, suggesting again that seat belt use laws are less successful in increasing belt use among those who are more likely to be in crashes. Pedestrian fatalities were unaffected by the laws, indicating that “risk compensation” was not a factor modifying the success of the laws.