Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


SENIORS Report Summary

Project ID: 636136
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SENIORS (Safety-ENhancing Innovations for Older Road userS)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

In an ageing society, the SENIORS (Safety ENhancing Innovations for Older Road userS) project aims to improve the safe mobility of the elderly, and overweight / obese persons, using an integrated approach that covers the main modes of transport as well as the specific requirements of this vulnerable road user (VRU) group. Thus, this project primarily investigates and assesses the injury reduction that can be achieved through innovative and suitable test tools as well as passive vehicle safety systems targeting the protection of the elderly as car occupants, pedestrians or cyclists being involved in a crash. SENIORS aims to have a short- to mid-term impact in the elderly road user safety by the following achievements (selection):
1. View on anthropometric particularities of the elderly (and overweight / obese persons) and their injury mechanisms compared with younger persons.
2. Development and optimization of passive safety test tools, procedures and assessment methods regarding the needs of the elderly.
3. Identification of differences in kinematics of road users by age in pre-crash and crash phase.
4. Customised open source R-scripts package for the calculation of injury risk curves.
5. Transfer of knowledge and results through cooperation with authorities, industry and consumer protection organizations.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Various European, national and in-depth crash databases and hospital statistics were analysed regarding the elderly injuries (as car occupants, pedestrians or cyclists) sustained in road traffic accidents. These were compared to mid-aged adults (25-64 years). It can be seen that the elderly suffered in all body regions more often from higher injury severities (AIS 2 and AIS 3+) compared with younger road users in these crashes. About 7.5% of the elderly pedestrians suffered injuries of AIS 3+ to the Thorax and Lower Extremities, over 5% did so in the head and pelvis region.

A comprehensive literature search was performed to gain a complete picture on the issues older road users face in road traffic including their mobility and physiological changes. Seniors of today are more mobile than seniors of earlier generations leading to an increase in the number of elderly road users and also bears the risk of being involved in crashes. Further, for the countries Germany, Italy, and Spain the frequency of trips, travelled distances, and trip purposes were analysed for elderly persons as car occupants, cyclists and pedestrians.

Work was proposed based on reports from the USA that obese car occupants were at an increased risk of injury and death in frontal impacts, compared to occupants with a “normal” BMI. However, the SENIORS analyses of accident data and hospital statistics showed that the prevalence of “obesity” (BMI > 30) was lower than expected in Europe. Instead, the results show the importance of occupants with “overweight” (BMI 25-29) in road crashes and could not confirm that the effects for a significant increased risk of injury of obese car occupants (BMI > 30, obesity classes I-III) as seen in the USA.

SENIORS has already identified the key biomechanical characteristics of the elderly that should be considered when developing a Human Body Model (HBM) to represent older road users. In particular, the material properties of body tissues and how they change with age and the anthropometric changes that occur with age have been identified and tabulated. It is intended that the most important of these material and geometric changes are implemented in the SENIORS human body modelling task and applied to the development of improved injury metrics for car occupants and external road users. Improvements required to be made to pedestrian head and leg impactors have also been documented in order to achieve more humanlike safety assessments. Based on this prototype tools will be developed.

In addition, a generic crash sled test set-up for car occupant safety evaluations has been developed based on findings from previous decades of research in this field and new findings within the SENIORS project. It has to be noted that at the first time a generic airbag and a generic load pretensioner was added to a general accepted test rig and forms a new basis for future application. This development was accompanied by discussions with project external experts.

The project itself was presented on several conferences by now, among them the TRA2016, Crash.Tech 2016 and the International Cyclist Safety Conference 2016. Expert discussions were held in two Experts Meetings with around 35 participants each. Other dissemination activities were started (e.g., the first newsletter).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The SENIORS project is based on five pillars which constitute its innovative character:

Integrated approach:
To benefit from synergy effects, cross cutting themes like biomechanics, test tools and procedures are investigated within an integrated approach towards the safety of elderly road users in different transport modes. Furthermore, this approach is unique in terms of passive safety as the elderly protection has never been studied before in such a holistic way.

Dynamic behaviour:
The SENIORS project has started to perform EMG studies in a virtual environment (driving simulator). A specific scenario to evoke a spontaneous driver pre-crash response is being developed. This will enable a characterization of onset and entity of the driver’s pre-crash response, achieving the possibility to build a set of parameters in a HBM that can be accomplished with the anticipated driving postures and the muscular activity during the pre-crash phase.

Injury mechanisms:
SENIORS is producing a new set of data of older occupants’ kinematics, investigating for the first time the effects of musculature in low-speed non-injurious simulated impacts with volunteers. These tests led to the development of a generic test fixture that will be openly available to any institution in the world so that test results are comparable.

Test tools, methods and assessment:
According to the identification of injury patterns and most affected body regions in terms of frequency and injury severity, the possible need of new assessment methods will be evaluated and, where necessary, the existing ones will be modified to give special attention to the protection of this road user group. A special emphasis is put on lower leg pedestrian protection with the design and validation of a new pedestrian impactor (FlexPLI with Upper Body Mass) and a dummy representing the elderly anthropometry.

An elderly pedestrian (>65 years old) has a 50% higher risk of being fatally injured compared to an average adult at typical crash speeds, and similar findings have been shown for occupants in frontal crashes. Furthermore, benefit studies as in recent EU research under the THORAX project estimated that considering age dependent risk curves may result in a benefit of 37 M€.
Restraint and vehicle technologies to protect the elderly are currently available but wide-spread introduction of these technologies is to be encouraged via consumer testing and regulatory procedures. As such the SENIORS project is also providing input to ongoing definitions of legislation like in the regulations on frontal impact and pedestrian protection.

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