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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now using a crash test dummy designed to represent a 3-year-old child in side impact crash tests. It is the first dummy of its kind in federal regulations, and it will be used to test how effective certain child safety seats are in this type of crash.
According to NHTSA, about 40% of fatalities to children ages 0 to 8 who were sitting in the back seat are the result of a side impact collision. This equals about 200 kids in the United States each year. Side-impact collisions can cause more severe injuries than frontal collisions cause, and they do not need to occur at high speeds to cause these severe injuries.
Although side impact crashes are very risky for children, there is not much research available on the subject. Hopefully, the crash test dummy, which is called Q3s, may be a step in the right direction. Because it was specifically designed to react the way a 3-year-old’s body would react, it may help provide some of the valuable data that researchers are currently missing.
Should parents change their current safety measures?
Research has confirmed that child safety seats can be the best way to protect children in case a frontal collision occurs. Having the right style of seat for a child’s age, weight and height can improve a child’s safety in the car. Having the seat properly installed in the back seat of the car can also improve a child’s safety.
These practices remain helpful, even though there is limited information regarding the amount of protection they provide in side-impact collisions. It can be important for parents to remember that the safety measures that are intended to keep adults and teenagers safe in a potential crash will not work properly for children and babies.
Air bags, specifically, can be dangerous for children and babies. Air bags open with significant force. Because children often sit closer to the edge of the seat, an air bag could reach a child before the bag is fully inflated. Because kids are lighter and shorter than adults, an air bag could lift them up off their seats. When either of these scenarios occur, the child will likely end up with severe head and neck injuries that can lead to death.
Although there may be limited research on side-impact crashes, parents shouldn’t stop taking their usual child safety precautions, as these precautions still have value. However, additional technologies and safety measures may emerge in the next few years as more research on side-impact collisions occur.