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Side Impact Explained SRN 07

Side Impact Explained SRN 07

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Published by: api-3850559 on Oct 19, 2008
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Explanation of the CU Side-Impact Test Error (Revised 1-22-07) 2007 Safe Ride News Publications 1) Consumers Union (CU) claimed

that they simulated the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) crash tests. Note that a crash test is one in which an actual vehicle is crashed. A dynamic test or sled test is one in which a laboratory sled is set up to create the change in velocity to simulate a real crash. The sled has a bench on which the dummies or child restraints are installed. 2) The 30 mph change in velocity of the NHTSA sled test required for child restraints is, itself, more severe than 97 percent of real-world frontal crashes. It is approximately the same as two similar sized vehicles colliding head-on at 30 mph or a vehicle going 60 mph into a parked car. In the latter scenario, the vehicle hits the parked car at 60 mph, accelerates the parked car to 30 mph, and continues forward at reduced speed of 30 mph, so the change in velocity for the passengers is 30 mph. People get hurt when the change in velocity happens very fast, like hitting the brick wall, unless a restraint system helps slow them down. When a vehicle brakes to a stop from 30 mph, no one gets hurt because it happens over a long period of time. 3) Simulating the frontal NCAP crash on a sled is done by setting the speed of the test sled at 35 mph. The bench with the child restraint installed faces squarely forward. This test is the equivalent of hitting an immovable wall at 35 mph. Although the difference in speed between a 30-mph test (required for car seats to pass FMVSS 213) and a 35-mph test (used by CU) is only about 16%, the change in force (energy) is much greater—36 percent. This is because the force changes exponentially, meaning the energy goes up with the square of the speed (velocity). 4) Simulating the side-impact NCAP test on a test sled is much more complex. The NCAP side-impact test recreates an intersection crash in which the vehicle with dummies inside moving at 17 mph is hit squarely from the left at 34 mph. The struck vehicle is impacted and then pushed to the right while still moving forward. In the laboratory, the striking (“bullet”) vehicle is simulated by a moving barrier with a crushable metal honey comb on the front. For practical purposes, the actual NCAP side-impact test is set up with a stationary struck vehicle instead of a moving one. To simulate the situation in which both vehicles are moving, the angle of impact is adjusted and the speed of the striking barrier is set at 38mph instead of 34. Because the vehicle being struck is not anchored to the ground like a brick wall and because of the crushing front end of the moving barrier, the change of velocity (Delta V) acting on the passengers is considerably lower than in the frontal NCAP crash, about 14 to 18 mph, depending on the weight of the two vehicles and other factors. When the vehicle is struck and knocked to the side, the occupants move forward and

sideward within the passenger compartment toward the side that was impacted unless held in place with a seat belt or car seat.* That means the change in velocity which could potentially cause damage to a child restraint and injury to the occupants riding in the struck vehicle is equivalent to 14 to 18 mph (depending on the characteristics of the vehicle being simulated), about half the speed of the striking vehicle. 5) There is an accepted practice for a laboratory sled test to simulate the NCAP side impact of 38 mph. It is set up so the child restraint and dummy on the sled experience the change in velocity of 14 to 18 mph. That means the sled with the child restraints on it should be run at that speed. When sled tests are run under those conditions, the effect on a typical child restraint is not as dramatic as the original CU tests indicated.** (See the crash test footage of this type of test shown on the home page of the NHTSA web site, http://www.nhtsa.gov.) 6) What did CU do? Its test sled speed was 38 mph. They used the speed of the striking vehicle, instead of that of the struck vehicle. That speed would cause a change in velocity more than twice that of a correct sled simulation of an NCAP side-impact test. As a result, the condition simulated by the CU tests represented a vehicle being struck “in excess of 70 mph,” as NHTSA stated in its press release regarding the retraction. 7) A 70+ mph change in velocity is much more than twice as forceful as an NCAP side-impact test. Remember, the force changes exponentially. The energy involved was exponentially more (at least 339 percent***), more than has ever been proposed for an occupant protection standard. The bottom line: The CU side-impact test results are meaningless and should be completely thrown out, as CU has admitted. Rear-facing child restraints meeting the current standard work very well in the real world. ----* Part of the solution to better protection in a side-impact crash for children in car seats is improvements to vehicles that help maintain the vehicle passenger space. That is something that CRS manufacturers can do nothing to control. ** Actual crash data from Partners for Child Passenger Safety research show that rearfacing infants are the best protected occupants in side-impacts. *** Using 38 mph and 70 mph speeds as an example. Sources: Richard Stalnaker, PhD, Ristal Engineering, and Miriam Manary, PhD, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

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