The Crash Injury Risk to Rear Seated Passenger Vehicle Occupants

dc.contributor.authorTatem, Whitney M.en
dc.contributor.committeechairGabler, Hampton Clayen
dc.contributor.committeememberDoerzaph, Zachary R.en
dc.contributor.committeememberKemper, Andrew R.en
dc.contributor.committeememberWeaver, Ashley A.en
dc.contributor.committeememberPerez, Miguel A.en
dc.contributor.departmentDepartment of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanicsen
dc.date.accessioned2020-01-23T09:01:08Zen
dc.date.available2020-01-23T09:01:08Zen
dc.date.issued2020-01-22en
dc.description.abstractHistorically, rear seat occupants have been at a lower risk of serious injury and fatality in motor vehicle crashes than their front seat counterparts. However, many passive safety advancements that have occurred over the past few decades such as advanced airbag and seatbelt technology primarily benefit occupants of the front seat. Indeed, safety for front seat occupants has improved drastically in the 21st century, but has it improved so much that the front seat is now safer than the rear? Today, rear-seated occupants account for 10% of all passenger vehicle fatalities. In this era focused on achieving zero traffic deaths, the safety of rear-seated occupants must be further addressed. This dissertation analyzed U.S. national crash data to quantify the risk of injury and fatality to rear-seated passenger vehicle occupants while accounting for the influence of associated crash, vehicle, and occupant characteristics such as crash severity, vehicle model year, and occupant age/sex. In rear impacts, the risk of moderate-to-fatal injury was greater for rear-seated occupants than their front-seated counterparts. In high-severity rear impact crashes, catastrophic occupant compartment collapse can occur and carries with it a great fatality risk. In frontal impacts, there is evidence that the rear versus front seat relative risk of fatality has been increasing in vehicle model years 2007 and newer. Rear-seated occupants often sustained serious thoracic, abdomen, and/or head injuries that are generally related to seatbelt use. Seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters – commonplace technology in the front seating positions – aim to mitigate these types of injuries but are rarely provided as standard safety equipment in the rear seats of vehicles today. Finally, in side impacts, injury and fatality risks to rear- and front-seated occupants are more similar than in the other crash modes studied, though disparities in protection remain, especially in near-side vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Finally, this work projects great injury reduction benefits if a rear seat belt reminder system were to be widely implemented in the U.S. vehicle fleet. This dissertation presents a comprehensive investigation of the factors that contribute to rear-seated occupant injury and/or fatality through retrospective studies on rear, front, and side impacts. The overall goal of this dissertation is to better quantify the current risk of injury to rear-seated occupants under a variety of crash conditions, compare this to the current risk to front-seated occupants, and, when possible, identify how exactly injuries are occurring and ways in which they may be prevented in the future. The findings can benefit automakers who seek to improve the effectiveness of rear seat safety systems as well as regulatory agencies seeking to improve was vehicle tests targeting rear seat passenger vehicle safety.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralHistorically, if a passenger vehicle such as a sedan or SUV is in a crash, occupants who are rear-seated were less likely to be hurt than someone who was front-seated. In other words, rear-seated occupants have been at a lower risk of injury than front-seated occupants. Indeed, safety for front seat occupants has improved drastically in the 21st century due to advancements in airbag and seatbelt technologies, among others, but has it improved so much that the front seat is now safer than the rear? Today, of all vehicle occupants who are killed in crashes on U.S. roadways, 10% are rear-seated. During this time when conversations surrounding vehicle safety are focused on achieving zero traffic deaths, the safety of rear-seated occupants must be further studied. This dissertation looked at national databases of all police-reported crashes that occur each year in the United States. The risk of injury to rear-seated passenger vehicle occupants was quantified and compared to that of front-seated occupants. Factors that may increase or decrease this risk of injury and fatality such as crash type, vehicle type, and occupant demographics were further explored and reported. In vehicles that were rear-ended, the risk of injury was greater for rear-seated occupants than their front-seated counterparts. When a vehicle crashes into something front-first (the most common type of impact in a vehicle crash), evidence is presented that the risk of fatality is greater in the rear seats than the front seats in model year 2007 and newer vehicles which generally are equipped with the most recent airbag and seatbelt technology. When a vehicle is hit on either of its sides, the risk of injury is closer between rear- and front-seated occupants than it was in the rear-end or frontal crashes previously studied. That said, differences in occupant protection were still observed between the rear and front seats, especially when the occupants studied were seated on the closest side of impact, or the near-side, and the vehicle was struck by another vehicle rather than sliding into an object such as a pole. Finally, this work projects great injury reduction benefits if a rear seat belt reminder system were to be widely implemented in the U.S. vehicle fleet. This dissertation presents a comprehensive investigation of the factors that contribute to rear-seated occupant injury and/or fatality through retrospective studies on rear, front, and side impacts. The overall goal of this dissertation is to better quantify the current risk of injury to rear-seated occupants under a variety of crash conditions, compare this to the current risk to front-seated occupants, and, when possible, identify how exactly injuries are occurring and ways in which they may be prevented in the future. The findings can benefit automakers who seek to improve the effectiveness of rear seat safety systems as well as regulatory agencies seeking to improve was vehicle tests targeting rear seat passenger vehicle safety.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.format.mediumETDen
dc.identifier.othervt_gsexam:23881en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10919/96550en
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.rights.urihttp://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/en
dc.subjectrear seat occupanten
dc.subjectpassenger vehicle crashen
dc.subjectcrash injury risken
dc.titleThe Crash Injury Risk to Rear Seated Passenger Vehicle Occupantsen
dc.typeDissertationen
thesis.degree.disciplineBiomedical Engineeringen
thesis.degree.grantorVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen
thesis.degree.namePh. D.en
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