This paper explores opportunities to better protect belted right front passengers during frontal crashes. Paired comparisons of using NASS CDS 2000-2007 data showed that, across all ages and genders, belted passengers carried a 34% higher serious injury risk than belted drivers. In an effort to explain this difference, we explore crash configurations where right front passengers most often sustain serious injuries. We also identified primary attributes of right front passengers including age and weight to determine how they differ from drivers when serious injuries occur.
When involved in the same crash, right front passengers more often sustain MAIS3+ injuries compared to drivers. However, there are fundamental differences between these populations. First, a higher percentage of right front occupants are injured during angled collisions with a 1 o’clock principle direction of force. These crashes are more serious for occupants seated on the nearside or passenger side of the vehicle. Often these crashes occur at intersections where the struck vehicle initiates a turn.
A second reason for this difference in risk is principally due to the presence of occupants in the passenger location who are more vulnerable to injury than the driver. While only 1 in 10 right front seat occupants involved in frontal crashes are age 65 and older, the elderly population makes up more than 1/3 of the MAIS3+ injured group. When both front seat occupants are elderly, the most vulnerable in terms of age or gender is in the passenger position 85% of the time. The GES data showed that when two elderly occupants (age 65+) were present, the female occupied the right front passenger position 73% of the time.
Analysis of NASS GES data suggests that, when an elderly male occupies the passenger seat he is frequently older than the driver. When investigated further, there was no significant difference in the fatal injury risk of young belted drivers and young belted right front passengers in frontal crashes.