Improving the Chest Protection of Elderly Occupants in Frontal Crashes Using SMART Load Limiters

Karthikeyan Ekambaram, Richard Frampton, Lisa Bartlett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    OBJECTIVE: To determine whether varying the seat belt load limiter (SBL) according to crash and occupant characteristics could have real-world injury reduction benefits in frontal impacts and, if so, to quantify those benefits.

    METHODS: Real-world UK accident data were used to identify the target population of vehicle occupants and frontal crash scenarios where improved chest protection could be most beneficial. Generic baseline driver and front passenger numerical models using a 50th percentile dummy were developed with MADYMO software. Simulations were performed where the load limiter threshold was varied in selected frontal impact scenarios. For each SBL setting, restraint performance, dummy kinematics, and injury outcome were studied in 5 different frontal impact types. Thoracic injury predictions were converted into injury probability values using Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) 2+ age-dependent thoracic risk curves developed and validated based on a methodology proposed by Laituri et al. (2005). Real-world benefit was quantified using the predicted AIS 2+ risk and assuming that an appropriate adaptive system was fitted to all the cars in a real-world sample of recent frontal crashes involving European passenger cars.

    RESULTS: From the accident data sample the chest was the most frequently injured body region at an AIS 2+ level in frontal impacts (7% of front seat occupants). The proportion of older vehicle front seat occupants (>64 years) with AIS 2+ injury was also greater than the proportion of younger occupants. Additionally, older occupants were more likely to sustain seat belt-induced serious chest injury in low- and moderate-speed frontal crashes. In both front seating positions, the low SBL provided the best chest injury protection, without increasing the risk to other body regions. In severe impacts, the low SBL allowed the driver to move dangerously close to the steering wheel. Compared to the driver side, greater ride-down space on the passenger side gave a higher potential for using the low SBLs. When applying the AIS 2+ risk reduction findings to the weighted accident data sample, the risk of sustaining an AIS 2+ seat belt injury changed to 0.9, 4.9, and 8.1% for young, mid, and older occupants, respectively, from their actual injury risk of 1.3, 7.6, and 13.1%.

    CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest the potential for improving the safety of older occupants with the development of smarter restraint systems. This is an important finding because the number of older users is expected to increase rapidly over the next 20 years. The greatest benefits were seen at lower crash severities. This is also important because most real-world crashes occur at lower speeds.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)S77-S86
    Number of pages10
    JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
    Volume16 Suppl 2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Accidents, Traffic
    • Aged
    • Automobiles
    • Biomechanical Phenomena
    • Computer Simulation
    • Equipment Design
    • Humans
    • Male
    • Models, Theoretical
    • Risk Assessment
    • Safety
    • Seat Belts
    • Software
    • Thoracic Injuries
    • Thorax
    • Journal Article
    • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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