U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta this week
proposed a major regulatory upgrade in side-impact crash protection
for all passenger vehicles.
The proposed upgrade, developed by the DOT's National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), would require auto
manufacturers to provide head protection in side crashes for
the first time. It would also enhance thorax and pelvis protection
for a wider range of vehicle occupants involved in such crashes.
In addition, the upgrade which would strengthen Federal
Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 214 represents a significant
advance in the use of crash test dummies. For the first time,
a dummy representing a small adult female would be used in
side-impact performance testing. A new and more technically
advanced dummy representing an adult male of average height
also would be used in such crash testing.
"This change in the way new vehicles are tested would
take our safety program to a new level and have a dramatic,
positive effect on traffic-related fatalities," Mineta
NHTSA estimates that the change would save 700 to 1000 lives
per year. NHTSA also estimates that, in serious side-impact
crashes involving at least one fatality, nearly 60 percent
of those killed have suffered brain injuries.
"We expect that this rigorous requirement will spur
the introduction of a comprehensive array of technologies
for side-impact protection. The proposal represents a major
step toward safer vehicles," said NHTSA Administrator
Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
While NHTSA does not require specific technologies to meet
its performance standards, manufacturers would likely meet
this upgraded rule with various types of innovative head,
chest and pelvis protection systems, such as side air bags.
Issued today by NHTSA, the proposed regulatory upgrade could
become a final rule as early as 2005, with a phase-in for
all new vehicles beginning four years after publication of
a final rule.
This upgraded rule would augment the current side-impact
standard by requiring manufacturers to meet an additional
performance test involving a 20-mph vehicle side impact into
a rigid pole at an approach angle of 75 degrees.
The new pole test reflects real world side-impact collisions
in which head injuries are prevalent. A large number of deaths
in such crashes occur when a single vehicle strikes a tree
or a utility pole. Other dangerous side-impact crashes often
happen when a large vehicle strikes a smaller one at an intersection.
"Our goal is to protect all sizes of people, whether
they are hit by an SUV or a pickup truck, or run into a tree,"
Dr. Runge said.
The new female crash test dummy called for in the proposed
rule represents a 4-foot 11 inch woman. Use of this dummy
along with the more technically advanced male dummy
will promote the development of head and thorax protection
systems that will provide improved side-impact safety for
a wider segment of the population.
Posted on the NHTSA Web Site is a series of graphics related
to the proposed upgrade:
NHTSA will accept comments on this notice of proposed rulemaking
for the next 150 days
Written comments concerning it should be sent to the DOT
Docket Facility, Attn: Docket No. NHTSA 2004-17694, Room PL-401,
400 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, DC 20590-0001, or faxed
to (202) 493-2251. The notice also will be available for viewing
Comments may also be submitted electronically via this Web