The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan 2009 – 2011 describes the projects the agency plans to work on in the rulemaking and research areas in those calendar years. Specific programs identified in the plan included research to improve vehicle safety for rear seat occupants, children, and older people.
In support of the priority plan, an analysis of realworld crash data was conducted to determine the nature of the crash problem and examine the factors that contribute to rear seat occupant injury, including children and older people. A review of the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS) and Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) case data was conducted for restrained rear seat occupants in frontal crashes that sustained an Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) 3+ injury in 1998 model year and newer vehicles. For each occupant identified, a review of the accompanying investigation was conducted using a methodology similar to that described by Bean et al. . The authors were then able to identify occupant and crash characteristics associated with rear seat occupants commonly sustaining serious injuries in frontal crashes. For each occupant, a primary cause of the most severe injury was assigned and injury sources were identified. This review suggests that in the absence of overly severe frontal crash conditions and vulnerabilities due to advanced age, properly belted adults and children in age- and stature-appropriate child restraints are reasonably well-protected in the rear seat, although improvements could be achieved in some cases