Biomechanics of Automotive Safety Restraints

  • Albert I. King


There is an advertising poster put out in 1940 by the now defunct Packer Motors that suggested an unusual way for the right front passenger to protect him/herself before an impending crash. The ad suggested that the passenger in the “dead man’s seat” curl up in the footwell to ride out the crash. This is possible for a small person in a large car but it is not a practical suggestion because by the time the passenger manages to get into the footwell, the crash would have occurred already. The more practical form of protection is the use of automotive restraint systems. There are two forms of safety restraints. Seatbelts constitute the active restraint system which requires the occupant to actively participate in its use. There are forms of automatic seatbelts but so far their use has been limited. The most popular form of passive restraint is the airbag which is deployed at the time of the crash, hence the name passive restraint. Both systems afford good protection for the occupant but when used together, they are very effective in mitigating injuries and preventing fatalities. The biomechanics behind the use of these restraint systems is the subject of this chapter.


  1. G.S. Bahling, R.T. Bundorf, G.S. Kaspzyk, E.A. Moffet, K.F. Orlowski, J.E. Stocke, Rollover and drop tests—the influence of roof strength on injury mechanics using belted dummies, in 34th Stapp Car Crash Conference, SAE Paper No. 902314, 1990Google Scholar
  2. D. Blower, J. Woodrooffe, Heavy-vehicle crash data collection and analysis to characterize rear and side underride and front override in fatal truck crashes. NHTSA Report No. DOT-HS-811-725, National Highway Traffic Safety Adiminstration, Washington, DC, 2013Google Scholar
  3. N.I. Bohlin, A statistical analysis of 28,000 accident cases with emphasis on occupant restraint value, in 11st Stapp Car Crash Conference, SAE Paper # 670925, Anaheim, CA, 1967Google Scholar
  4. E.R. Braver, S.Y. Kyrychenko, Efficacy of side air bags in reducing driver deaths in driver-side collisions. Am. J. Epidemiol. 159(6), 556–564 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. J. Cavanaugh, Y.J. Zhu, Y. Huang, A.I. King, Performance and mechanical properties of various padding materials used in cadaveric side impact sled tests. SAE Paper# 920354, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc, Warrendale, 1992Google Scholar
  6. J.M. Cavanaugh, Y. Huang, Y. Zhu, A.I. King, Regional tolerance of the shoulder, thorax, abdomen and pelvis to padding in side impact. SAE Paper# 930435, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc, Warrendale, 1993Google Scholar
  7. P.H. Cheng, C.B. Tanner, H.F. Chen, N.J. Durisek, D.A. Guenther, Delta-V, barrier equivalent velocity and acceleration pulse of a vehicle during an impact. SAE Paper No. 2005-01-1187, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc, Warrendale, 2005Google Scholar
  8. C. Chou, S. Wu, F. Wu, L. Gu, A review of mathematical models for rollover simulation, in ASME Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, AMD 230/BED 41, Crashworthiness, Occupant Protection and Biomechanics in Transportation Systems, ASME Applied Mechanics Division, New York, NY, 1998Google Scholar
  9. C.C. Chou, R.W. McCoy, J. Le, A literature review of rollover test methodologies. Int. J. Veh. Saf. 1(1–3), 200–237 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. A. Høye, Are airbags a dangerous safety measure? A meta-analysis of the effects of frontal airbags on driver fatalities. Accid. Anal. Prev. 42(6), 2030–2040 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. J. Hu, Neck injury mechanism in rollover crashes: A syustematic approach for improving rollover neck protection. PhD Dissertation, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2007Google Scholar
  12. C. Huber, J.B. Lee, K.H. Yang, A.I. King, Head injuries in airbag-equipped motor vehicles with special emphasis on AIS 1 and 2 facial and loss of consciousness injuries. Traffic Inj. Prev. 6(2), 170–174 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. L. Jakobsson, H. Norin, C. Jernström, S.-E. Svensson, P. Johnsén, I. Isaksson-Hellman, M.Y. Svensson, Analysis of different head and neck responses in rear-end car collisions using a new humanlike mathematical model, in 1994 Int. Conf. on the Biomechanics of Impact (IRCOBI), Lyon, France, 1994Google Scholar
  14. H. Johannessen, Historical perspective on seat belt restraint systems. SAE Technical Paper#840392, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc, Warrendale, 1984Google Scholar
  15. C. Kahane, Updated estimates of fatality reduction by curtain and side air bags in side impacts and preliminary analyses of rollover curtains. Report No. DOT HS 811 882, National Highway Traffic Safety Adiminstration, Washington, DC, 2014Google Scholar
  16. A.R. Kemper, C. McNally, E.A. Kennedy, S.J. Manoogian, A.L. Rath, T.P. Ng, J.D. Stitzel, E.P. Smith, S.M. Duma, F. Matsuoka, Material properties of human rib cortical bone from dynamic tension coupon testing. Stapp Car Crash J. 49(11), 199–230 (2005)Google Scholar
  17. S. Kuppa, Injury criteria for side impact dummies US DOT 67 (National Transportation Biomechanics Research Center, National Highway Saftey Administration, Washington, DC, 2004)Google Scholar
  18. S.M. Lord, L. Barnsley, B.J. Wallis, G.J. McDonald, N. Bogduk, Percutaneous radio-frequency neurotomy for chronic cervical zygapophyseal-joint pain. N. Engl. J. Med. 335(23), 1721–1726 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Y. Lu, C. Chen, S. Kallakuri, A. Patwardhan, J.M. Cavanaugh, Neural response of cervical facet joint capsule to stretch: a study of whiplash pain mechanism. Stapp Car Crash J. 49, 49 (2005)Google Scholar
  20. E.A. Moffatt, M.B. James, Headroom, roof crush, and belted excursion in rollovers. SAE Technical Paper#2005-01-0942 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., Warrendale, 2005Google Scholar
  21. M.S. Morris, L.P. Borja, Air bag deployment and hearing loss. Arch. Otolaryngol. Head. Neck. Surg. 124(5), 507 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. NHTSA, Anthropomorphictest devices; SID-IIsFRG Side Impact Crash test dummy. Fed. Regist. 69(235), 70947–70971 (2004)Google Scholar
  23. NHTSA, Crashworthiness data system manual (National Highway Traffic Safety Adiminstration, Washington, DC, 2005)Google Scholar
  24. NHTSA, Federal motor vehicle safetyu standards docket NO. NHTSA-29134 (National Highway Traffic Safety Adiminstration, Washington, DC, 2007)Google Scholar
  25. NHTSA, Crashworthiness data system: 2010 coding and editing manual (National Highway Traffic Safety Adiminstration, Washington, DC, 2010)Google Scholar
  26. NHTSA, Final regulatory impact analysis: Amendment of Federal Motor Vehicle Safetry Standard No. 208-passenger car front seat occupant protection (US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington DC, 1984)Google Scholar
  27. C.S. Parenteau, D.C. Viano, M. Shah, M. Gopal, J. Davies, D. Nichols, J. Broden, Field relevance of a suite of rollover tests to real-world crashes and injuries. Accid. Anal. Prev. 35(1), 103–110 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. L.M. Patrick, N. Bohlin, A. Andersson, Three-point harness accident and laboratory data comparison, in 18th Stapp Car Crash Conference, SAE Paper # 741181, Ann Arbor, MI, 1974Google Scholar
  29. G.R. Price, J.T. Kalb, Auditory hazard from airbag noise exposure. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 106(5), 2629–2637 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. S.W. Rouhana, P.G. Bedewi, S.V. Kankanala, P. Prasad, Biomechanics of 4-point seat belt systems in frontal impacts. Stapp Car Crash J. 47, 367 (2003)Google Scholar
  31. M. Walz, NCAP test improvements with pretensioner and load limiters. NHTSA Evaluation Note DOT-HS 809 563, NHTSA, Washington, DC, 2003Google Scholar
  32. Q. Zhou, S.W. Rouhana, J.W. Melvin, Age effects on thoracic injury tolerance. SAE Technical Paper #962421, Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc, Warrendale, 1996Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert I. King
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

Personalised recommendations