The performance of occupant protection systems, especially air bags, is of high interest to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since 1972, the NHTSA has operated a Special Crash Investigations (SCI) program, which provides the agency with the flexibility to acquire detailed engineering information quickly on high-visibility traffic crashes of special interest. The SCI program collects in-depth crash data on new and rapidly changing technologies in real world crashes. NHTSA uses the data collected in this program and others to evaluate rulemaking actions. The data are also used by the automotive industry and other organizations to evaluate the performance of motor vehicle occupant protection systems such as air bags.
In May of 2000, the NHTSA issued a Final Rule upgrading Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard Number 208. In this advanced air bag rule, significant changes were specified in the frontal occupant protection requirements for light passenger vehicles. These changes were to be phased in over several years. These changes included adding requirements for protecting small adult female occupants, adding requirements to minimize the risk of deploying air bags to out-of-position (OOP) children and small adult occupants, increasing the requirements for belted occupants, and reducing the test speed for the unbelted 50th percentile male occupants.
For the past two years, NHTSA’s Special Crash Investigations office has been researching crashes involving of vehicles equipped with advanced air bag systems. The purpose of this effort was to keep the Agency and manufacturers informed of the real world performance of these advanced systems. This paper will discuss the protection afforded the occupants in vehicles equipped with these systems; also known as Certified Advanced 208 Compliant (CAC) systems. Since data collection is ongoing, this paper will be limited to those crashes that were researched in the SCI program.
Topics covered in this paper will include: case selection criteria; make and model applicability; age / sex of front seat occupants; airbag deployment stage; safety belt usage; event data recorder (EDR) download applicability; damage severity; injury outcomes in the selected cases; and sample case data. Completed SCI case studies are available via the World Wide Web at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. See the “SCI DATA AVAILABILITY” section at the end of this paper for further details.