Mar. 16, 2000 Embargoed for Release -- Tuesday, March 14, 2000, 4:00 p.m., EST
Philadelphia, Pa — A study conducted by researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has demonstrated that computer crash simulation software can successfully predict the likelihood and severity of injuries to children from airbag activation. Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D., Kristy Arbogast, Ph.D., and Rajiv Menon, Ph.D., co- authors of a study appearing in the March 15 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, used standard, validated crash simulation software, to evaluate the effect of front passenger airbags on child passengers- seated in the front seat -in crashes of high and low severity. Both restrained and unrestrained children were simulated and the results were compared to children seated in the rear seat. For front seat passengers, the results confirmed previously identified risks of airbags to unrestrained children and demonstrated a substantial risk to restrained children.
"This software is very exciting. Along with determining the likelihood of injuries, the computer models allowed us to efficiently test the effects of changes in characteristics of the crash such as whether or not the child was wearing a seat belt, their exact seating position or head rotation. Our modeling provides compelling scientific evidence that airbags, in their current design, are not beneficial to restrained children," said Dr. Winston.
The computer models tested the effect of airbag activation for a 6-year old child both restrained and unrestrained. The results were then compared to those for an adult occupant in similar crash scenarios. For the unrestrained child passenger, crash simulations predicted serious head, neck and chest injuries with airbag activation, regardless of the severity of the crash. For the restrained child passenger, crash simulations predicted similar severe injuries for high-severity crashes only. No serious injures were predicted for an unrestrained adult male exposed to an airbag or for child passengers restrained in the rear seat for the crash scenarios simulated.
When airbag equipped vehicles first appeared on the market, no recommendations existed regarding the placement of school aged children in these cars. It was not until the first deaths of children from airbags in 1993 that parents were encouraged to move their child to the rear seat. Initially this recommendation only included infants in rear-facing infant seats, but in 1996, it was extended to include all children age 12 and under. "If simulations similar to ours had been available when airbags were introduced, the risk of airbags to children could have been assessed sooner," said Dr. Menon.
Currently, sled tests and crash tests are done to test the safety of vehicles. These methods are costly, and the expense of testing has limited federally required test procedures to adult dummies and a limited number of crash scenarios. "With the recent advances in computer modeling and the results of this study, it is clear that computer crash simulations should be used in addition to sled tests and crash tests to proactively identify injury risks to child occupants," said Dr. Arbogast.
Drs. Arbogast and Menon are researchers at TraumaLink, a comprehensive pediatric trauma research center based at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania led by Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston. At TraumaLink, work is conducted in all phases of an injury: pre-event, event, and post-event, in order to identify modifiable risk factors for poor injury outcome. This work was funded by State Farm Insurance Companies as part of the Partners for Child Passenger Safety project, a multi-year research collaboration between State Farm and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to investigate how and why children are injured or killed in automobile crashes.
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the nation's first children's hospital, is a leader in patient care, education and research. This 373-bed multi-specialty hospital provides comprehensive pediatric service, including home care, to children from before birth through age 19. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia admits more than 17,000 patients, and cares for more than 50,000 emergency and 600,000 outpatient visits annually. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia operates a pediatric healthcare network that also includes The Joseph Stokes, Jr. Research Institute, eight outpatient specialty care centers, four primary care centers, inpatient units at three community hospitals, a poison control center and 27 Kids First physician practices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
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