NHTSA uses crash dummy to gather data on side impact crashes and children

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that almost 40% of all child fatalities for children 0 to 8 years old sitting in the backseat of the vehicle occur in side impact crashes. This translates to almost 300 deaths every year and even more serious injuries. The agency further reports that it has very limited information about these accidents. As a result, it is has called on researchers to gather more data.

Researchers step up, develop crash dummy to imitate a child

In response to this call to action, researchers developed a crash test dummy that accounts for the unique characteristics of children. More specifically, researchers designed the dummy to model a three-year old child. The researchers made changes to this model when compared to an adult model. These changes include the overall size as well as a different neck design and special attention to the shoulder, chest, abdomen and pelvis areas. The researchers focused on these areas as they are often impacted by child restraint systems.

The federal agency states it will use the dummy to help gather data about these side collision accidents to help provide guidance for child seats. The NHTSA has stated it may encourage longer use of rear-facing child seats - ideally until the child outgrows the seat's recommended weight and height for this type of use.

NHTSA calls on drivers to use car seats wisely

While announcing the use of a new crash test dummy, the NHTSA also encouraged parents and drivers to make sure children are in properly fitting car seats. According to the agency, 46% of drivers do not install the car seat correctly. Incorrect installation can greatly reduce the safety of the seat. It is important to follow the directions and, if possible, have a trained car seat technician review and adjust the installation of the car seat with the vehicle.

Drivers should also make sure they are using the right device for their child. The agency has a tool to help determine the right seat, and reminds drivers that even older children, ages 8 to 12, likely still need a booster seat. It is important for the shoulder belt to lie across the shoulder and chest. If it is crossing the neck or face, the child needs a booster. The lap belt should go across the thighs. If it is on the stomach, the child still needs a booster. A failure to use one in these situations can result in internal damage to the child's organs in the event of an accident as the belt will restrict and the motion of the accident may cause the child's body to move forward with a great deal of force.