This content is not included in your SAE MOBILUS subscription, or you are not logged in.
Protecting Children in Car Crashes: The Australian Experience
Published May 19, 2003 by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in United States
Developments in child restraints are currently being discussed and debated in Europe and the USA, amongst other countries. Lessons can be learned from earlier experience in other markets, such as Australia. When earlier real-world experience is taken into account, there is the opportunity to ensure that the same costly mistakes are not repeated in new developments. Further, this can assist faster harmonization in regulation and/or consumer rating systems.
Australian research on child restraints started in the late 1960s through organizations such as the Traffic Accident Research Unit of New South Wales (TARU). This early work recognized the benefits of children being restrained in the rear seat and "riding down" the crash with the vehicle.
Australian Standard AS E46 for child restraints was issued in 1970. It required at least three points of attachment between the child restraint system (CRS) and the vehicle. Most CRS utilized either three special attachment straps or a combination of an adult seat belt and a top tether to achieve this requirement. This was aided, in 1976, by an Australian Design Rule (then ADR34) that required standardized top tether anchorage points to be provided on the parcel shelf of all sedans. Australia has therefore had more than 25 years of experience with top tethers on CRS.
The performance of CRS in real-world crashes has been closely monitored, including a number of in-depth studies, in Australia and has been complemented by laboratory research using sleds, crash barriers and computer modelling. In the light of this experience the Australian Standard has evolved to eliminate shortcomings. Unfortunately, in the early stages, Australian children have died or been seriously injured during the lesson-learning process of the development of the Australian Standard. Recent studies of real-world crashes in Australia have shown that CRS provide exceptional protection to children, including quite young children who are restrained in forward-facing child seats. Initial concerns about the vulnerability of such young occupants to neck injury have not been substantiated in real-world crashes reported in Australia. In Australia no serious neck injuries, in the absence of head contact, have been reported amongst children correctly restrained in forward-facing child seats, even in very severe frontal impacts.
Despite the favorable Australian experience the restraint of young children in forward-facing child seats sometimes remains a controversial issue internationally. This paper therefore addresses the issue in some detail.