PRIORITIES FOR EU MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY DESIGN
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Road crashes continue to be the main source of accidental death and injury in the European Union and throughout the world. In EU countries annually over 42,000 road users are killed and, when under-reporting is taken into consideration, around 3.5 million are injured. This accounts for an annual cost of over 160 billion Euro and untold pain and suffering. Improvements throughout the traffic system and using all the known strategies from crash prevention through to injury reduction and post impact care are needed to respond to the growing lack of public acceptance of road crash injuries. This review highlights the enormous potential which still exists to reduce the frequency and severity of road casualties by improvements to motor vehicles.
Since the ETSC reviews, Reducing traffic injuries through vehicle safety improvements: the role of car design (1993) and Consumer information on the crash performance of cars (1995), there have been significant improvements in the protection available to car occupants. The frontal and side impact Directives and consumer information from the European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) have led to the most rapid developments in car occupant protection that Europe has experienced but a great deal more can be achieved. Much of the research and development activity necessary for improvements in other areas of vehicle safety has been completed and now requires the political will to bring about its adoption in legislation.
Vehicle engineering improvements for safety can either be achieved by modifying the vehicle to help the driver avoid accidents, or by modifying the vehicle to provide protection against injury in the event of a crash. Although much can be done to stop some accidents from happening, it is clear that for the foreseeable future the majority will continue to occur. A recent study in one EU Member State reviewed the effectiveness of casualty reduction measures nationally since 1980 and demonstrated that the greatest reduction was from vehicle crash protection (15 per cent) compared to drink/drive measures (11 per cent) and road safety engineering measures (6.5 per cent). Reducing the risk of injury in accidents is and will remain a priority and the single most effective way of achieving this is by improving the safety of cars. For pedestrians and cyclists hit by the front of the car, although significant improvements are possible, little has yet been done.
KEY ROAD CASUALTY PROBLEMS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION
Looking at fatality numbers, car occupants are the largest single casualty group. They comprise 57 per cent of total EU deaths with the majority of car occupant fatalities occurring on non-motorway rural roads. The majority of fatal car occupant casualties are sustained in side impacts and frontal impacts with frontal impacts being dominant for serious casualties.
Looking at fatality risk, the traffic system is the least safe for the more vulnerable road users, where the risk of death on EU roads is substantially higher than for car occupants: for pedestrians and cyclists the risk is 8-9 times higher and for motorcyclists it is 20 times higher. The majority of fatally injured pedestrians are hit by the fronts of cars. The majority of serious and fatal motorcyclist injuries are to the head and leg.
Accident research continues to show that many road user injury situations are not catered for by current measures. Crash tests only deal with a limited number of crash scenarios and protection is focussed on the average-sized male occupant. Other accident configurations and occupants of different sizes also need consideration. In future, for demographic reasons, the average age of the driving population will increase and become more vulnerable to injury. At the same time advances in vehicle crash protection will allow more road users than at present to survive impacts and the need to prevent injuries with long term effects will become more important. The socio-economic costs of many disabling injuries, such as 'whiplash', are poorly represented by their severity, which is usually measured in terms of threat to life.
SUMMARY OF IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES FOR EU ACTION
The following list of priorities for EU action comprise those measures which offer the greatest opportunities for large reductions in casualties in the short to medium term with due account being taken of the state of the art of research and development in each case.
- Safer car fronts for pedestrians and cyclists (adoption of 4 EEVC tests)
- Improved offset frontal impact test, extended to cover additional vehicle types
- Seat belt reminder systems
- Universal ISOFIX child restraint anchorages with an effective third restraint
- Side impact test procedure for child restraints
- High deceleration frontal crash test for restraint system assessment
- Daytime running lights for motorcycles
- Improved side impact test for cars
- Daytime running lights for cars
- Anti-lock brakes on motorcycles
- Improved rear and side HGV underrun protection
- Seat belt fitment to minibuses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles
- Member States to join and fund EuroNCAP
- Improved dissemination of EuroNCAP results
- Combine EuroNCAP pedestrian and child restraint performance with occupant ratings
- EuroNCAP to encourage the on-going improvement of seat belt reminder systems
- Incorporation of a high deceleration frontal impact into EuroNCAP
- Assessment of Compatibility in EuroNCAP
- Further review the appropriateness of EuroNCAP requirements to accident needs
Research and development
- EU in-depth accident and injury causation studies
- Specification for smart audible seat belt warning devices
- Car frontal and side impact compatibility and advanced protection
- Protection in side impacts at higher severities and for non-struck side occupants
- Greater understanding of "whiplash" injuries, their causes and prevention
- Measures to improve motorcycle leg and upper torso protection
- Research into standards for Intelligent Speed Adaptation
- Criteria and instrumentation for frontal impact injury to the abdomen and knees
- Performance and concerns regarding European air bags
- Development of advanced intelligent restraints
- Energy-absorbing front underrun protection for heavy goods vehicles
- More comprehensive biomechanical data, injury performance criteria, improved crash dummies
- Pedestrian head protection measures for the windscreen surround
- EU standard for GPS based warning of accidents
- Specifications for on-board crash recorders for all motor vehicles
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Car design for occupant protection
1. Improving EU frontal impact protection requirements
- The test speed for the frontal impact test should be raised to 64 – 65 km/h.
- The frontal impact Directive should be extended to cover N1 vehicles up to 2.5 tonnes, M1 vehicles above 2.5 tonnes and M2 vehicles.
- A requirement to limit the lateral displacement of the steering column to 80 mm should be added to the existing vertical and horizontal requirements.
- All the current injury criteria need to be maintained.
- When available, consideration should be given to using an improved dummy with improved criteria for the lower legs.
- Research is needed to develop criteria and instrumentation to assess the risk of injury to the abdomen and knees.
- The recommended limit on footwell intrusion recommended by the EEVC should be adopted with a requirement for its review in the light of further accident experience.
- For the present time the current design of deformable barrier face should be retained.
- An additional full frontal high deceleration crash test is required to provide a better test of restraint protection
2. Improving EU side impact protection requirements
- The derogation regarding seating position should be removed from the Directive.
- All the current performance criteria should be retained and the Viscous Criterion should become a mandatory requirement.
- Protection of the lower limbs needs to be considered for the future. To provide for the protection of the lower limbs, dummy instrumentation and criteria for the lower limbs need developing.
- Research should be carried out to determine the best method of increasing the severity of the side impact test to be more able to address the accident problem. This should enable a further review of the Directive to be made to enable the higher speeds of impact in accidents to be addressed.
- Urgent consideration needs to be given to instrumenting all the load paths into the EuroSID dummy and developing criteria for them.
- In any future side impact dummy, all possible load paths need to be instrumented by design.
- When the EEVC research is complete, a single design specification of barrier face should be specified in the Directive. This barrier face must be capable of being manufactured to the same standard of performance by competing suppliers around the world.
- A pole impact test is required to evaluate head protection in side impact. Consideration should be given to the development of a test to simulate accidents involving impacts with poles. This would require research into the levels of protection possible.
3. Improving car to car compatibility
- Compatibility is seen as the next major step forward in improving car occupant safety. Further developments of frontal impact protection need to be considered in association with compatibility and this is seen as a top priority for vehicle safety research.
4. Improving seat belt use
- The fitment of effective seat belt reminder systems is seen as a high priority for early action.
- EuroNCAP can provide an immediate incentive for manufacturers to develop and install simple effective seat belt reminder systems and then to continue to develop more advanced ones.
- When effective seat belt reminder systems become available, consideration should be given to enacting legislation for their mandatory fitment.
5. Frontal protection front air bags
- Driver airbags should be fitted universally.
- Where passenger airbags are fitted, clear instructions are needed to avoid the fitment of rearward facing child restraints on the seat.
- The provision of automatic detection of child restraints and out of position occupants is needed to switch off the passenger airbag.
- If manual switches are provided, an effective warning about their setting needs to be incorporated.
6. Side protection air bags
- With the growing number of side airbags fitted in cars, accident research is needed to identify their benefits and any associated problems.
7. Restraint of children in cars
- Children in cars should be provided with suitable child restraints for their age and size.
- The use of rearward facing restraints provides the best protection and should be used up to as high an age as possible.
- Further research is needed to assess the effects of modern car designs to identify necessary changes for restraint design and regulatory tests.
- A mandatory side impact test procedure is required to assess child restraints for all age groups of children.
- The fitting of ISOFIX anchorages, with provision for an effective third restraint in the front and rear seats should be made mandatory.
- ECE R44 should be developed to assess universal ISOFIX seats, with effective third restraints.
8. Reducing injuries through contact with the car interior
- An interior headform test procedure should be developed for use in Europe.
- A sub-systems test procedure needs to be developed to assess the risk from knee impacts against that part of the fascia that knees are able to impact.
- Footwell intrusion requirements need to be added to the Frontal Impact directive.
- As soon as validated improved lower legs are available for the frontal impact dummies they should be used in the mandatory test and EuroNCAP.
- Improved injury protection criteria need to be developed for use with improved dummy lower limbs.
9. Improving rear occupant protection
- Measures need to be taken to increase rear seat belt wearing rates.
- 3-point seat belts, with pre-tensioners and load limiters, should be required for all rear seats.
- Dynamic testing of rear seat back strength needs to be mandatory.
10. Improving protection in rear impacts
- A new dynamic test standard for seat backs should be developed.
- Further research is required to provide a better understanding of "whiplash" injuries and their cause.
- Evaluation of neck protection devices from accident experience is required to determine their effectiveness.
- Injury classification schemes need to take proper account of non-life threatening injuries such as "whiplash".
11. Safer car fronts for pedestrians and cyclists
- Introduction of EU Directive requiring the four EEVC sub-system tests for the protection of vulnerable road users
- Consumer information e.g. through EuroNCAP
- Research on head injuries caused by the windscreen surround
Car design for crash prevention
12. Reducing vehicle speeds
- Work is required to develop harmonised standards for Intelligent Speed Adaptation systems with the aim of eventual universal fitment.
- In the meantime, encouragement should be given to manufacturers providing ISA systems via the European New Car Assessment Programme to enable the consumer to start benefiting from a voluntary system.
13. Reducing driver impairment
- Further work is required to develop practical driver impairment systems and to understand their effectiveness and acceptability.
- Consideration should be given in developing such systems in combination with an electronic driving licence system.
14. Improving conspicuity
- It is recommended that early consideration is given to a mandatory fitment requirement for daytime running lights in the EU.
15. Improving braking and stability
- Research would help to ascertain whether anti-lock braking systems alone have a role to play in accident reduction.
- Monitoring of braking assistance systems is required to determine how well they can identify and respond to the driver's intended braking behaviour and to determine their accident reduction potential.
- Monitoring of the dynamic stability systems being made available by car manufacturers is needed to determine their influence on accident occurrence.
Motorcycle design to improve safety
- Daytime running lights and anti-lock braking systems should be mandatorily fitted to motorcycles.
- Further research is urgently needed:
- to determine seating positions with a relatively high seat elevation and upright body position to reduce the possibility of lower leg entrapment
- to provide leg protection to protect the wearer from the impact of external forces and to serve as an element that affects the trajectory in a positive way
- to develop suitable airbags to provide riders with protection in frontal impacts
Heavy goods vehicle design
- Development of a test specification for energy-absorbing front underrun protection is needed towards a mandatory fitment requirement.
- Rear and side underrun protection legislative requirements need to be amended to reflect needs identified by accident research.
- An EU Directive is needed to require the compulsory fitment of seat belts in heavy commercial vehicle cabins
- EU Directives should be introduced aimed at improved mirror systems and providing retro-reflective contour marking on heavy commercial vehicles.
Minibus and light van design
- Seat belt wearing rates are lower in minibuses and light vans than in cars and should be increased. All existing exemptions should be removed nationally.
- A mandatory requirement is needed at EU level for the fitment of seat belts.
- The frontal impact occupant protection requirements should be extended to minibuses and light vans.
Bus and coach design
- European requirements need to be developed to enhance the structural integrity of buses and coaches and their seats, and seat to floor mountings
- Consideration should be given to improved side glazing to reduce the risk of ejection without impeding evacuation
- An EU requirement is needed to fit seat belts to coaches
Alerting the emergency services
- A uniform EU standard needs to be established to provide a GPS warning signal to emergency departments.
Crash Investigation Tools
- Develop specifications for the fitment of on-board crash recorders on all vehicles
- A new monitoring system to gather systematic in-depth accident and injury causation information needs to be established at EU level.
- Collecting human response and injury data should be a key research priority in the field of passive safety as good information for many body areas is still lacking.
- Research and development aimed at improving crash dummies in terms of human likeness in response, injury assessment capabilities and application
ETSC gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following members of ETSC's Vehicle Safety Working Party to this review:
Prof. Adrian Hobbs (Chairman)
Mr. Dominique Cesari
Mr. Edgar Janssen
Mr. Anders Kullgren
Prof. Klaus Langwieder
Mr. Dietmar Otte
Prof. Fernando Pina da Silva
Mr. Pete Thomas
Mr. Thomas Turbell
Also Dr. Oliver Carsten (ETSC Road User Behaviour and Telematics Working Parties)
ETSC Working Party Secretary: Mrs. Pam Lewis
ETSC is grateful for the financial support provided by the Energy and Transport Directorate of the European Commission and for the contribution towards the printing and dissemination costs of this review provided by BP, KeyMed, Railtrack Group PLC, Scania, and Shell International. The contents of this review are the sole responsibility of ETSC and do not necessarily reflect the view of the sponsors nor the organisations to which research staff participating in the Working Party belong.