Thoracic side-airbags (SAB) have proven to protect front seat occupants in side impacts. This benefit has not been evaluated for rear seat occupants who are typically small statured. The objective was to analyze field data from rear seat occupants in near side impacts, and evaluate the effect of a SAB in the rear seat, through full scale vehicle tests.
A field study using the NASS-CDS database was performed to review rear seat crash characteristics, occupant injuries (Abbreviated Injury Scale 3+, AIS3+) and injury sources. Full scale tests were performed with the side impact dummy SID-IIs at two different crash severities, with and without SAB in a midsize passenger car.
Field data showed that of all AIS3+ injured restrained occupants 13 years and older, 59% had AIS3+ thoracic injuries and 38% had AIS3+ head injuries. The thoracic injuries were distributed to lungs (60%), skeletal fractures (38%) and injuries to arteries (1,26%) and heart (0,1%). For AIS3+ injured children, age 4-12, 51% had AIS3+ thoracic injuries and 54% had AIS3+ head injuries. Compared to adults, children sustained less fractures and more lung injuries. The rear side interior was the main injury source regardless of age group.
In the full scale tests, the thoracic side-airbag reduced the average rib deflection by 50% and resulted in an AIS3+ injury risk reduction from 36% to 3%. At the higher impact speed, SAB reduced the injury risk from 93% to 24%. The full scale crash tests showed that SAB offer a significant potential for thoracic injury reduction in the crash severities causing the majority of serious injuries in real life crashes.