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Thoracic injury assessment for improved vehicle safety

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Smarter dummies improve car safety

Better-designed crash test dummies will enhance understanding of thoracic injury and lead to improved car designs in the future. This is expected to save lives and alleviate the huge costs associated with injuries.

Industrial Technologies

In 2009, road accidents claimed the lives of over 35 000 people across the EU and injured more than 1.5 million people. This takes a heavy emotional toll on EU citizens but also creates huge costs for society. For the year 2009 this cost reached EUR 130 billion, driving policymakers to seek new safety strategies and technologies, including advanced restraint systems. The EU-funded project 'Thoracic injury assessment for improved vehicle safety' (THORAX) focused on studying thoracic injuries, looking at injury mechanisms and factors such as age and gender. It worked on developing sophisticated vehicle restraint systems that offer optimal protection to car occupants. First, the project surveyed severity of injuries, restraint types and occupant traits, concluding that rib fractures represent the most common thoracic injury and that females were at higher risk. It then documented the biomechanical requirements for an enhanced shoulder thorax complex of a frontal impact dummy and collected data from related accident deaths. The work revealed that excessive bending strain in the ribs was the main cause of rib fractures. This led to the development, testing and validation of a more advanced demonstrator dummy with improved thorax and shoulder designs. Insightful and valuable project results in this area were communicated to stakeholders through events, workshops, publications and online channels. Among the many positive outcomes of the project, this led key stakeholders to include new THORAX dummies and female crash-test dummies, once they are finalised, in their testing procedures. In parallel, research organisations within the project have vowed to support industry in designing safer vehicles and to counsel governments in light of the new findings. By the end of the decade, the EU is expected to implement a harmonised frontal impact dummy, helping to make car designs better.

Keywords

Car safety, road accidents, thoracic injury, restraint system, frontal impact, crash test, rib fracture

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