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Rollover crashworthiness: The final frontier for vehicle passive safety.
Fatalities and injuries to seat belted occupants resulting from rollover crashes is of considerable concern to road safety advocates around the world. Rollover crashes in Australia account for around 1 in every 6 road fatalities, in Europe approximately 1 in every 10, while in the USA it is an alarming 1 in every 4. Recent detailed analysis of the Australian National Coronial Information System fatalities for the year 2005 has revealed that almost 1 in every three vehicle (excluding motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities) occupant fatalities (29%) can be attributed to a rollover crash and that of those crashes 16% occur in urban environments whereas 84% are rural crashes. Moreover, vehicle roll-overs are among the most common cause of spinal cord paralysis injury in Australia. Yet there still is no government mandated or consumer dynamic rollover test that protects occupants in such crashes. The main reason for this is considered to be two fold. Firstly, vehicle manufacturers continue to contend that there is no causal link between roof crush and occupant injuries and in particular neck injuries. Secondly, government and consumer groups are presently focussed on prevention of rollover via assessment and ranking of a vehicle’s stability characteristics and promotion of electronic stability control.
This paper provides a brief summary of research work carried out and findings to date of an Australian Research Council (ARC) project “Protecting Occupants in Vehicle Rollover Crashes”. It includes: the mechanisms that lead to neck injury and fatalities in rollover crashes; the causal link between serious head and neck injuries and excessive roof crush for seat belted occupants; and a proposed rollover crashworthiness testing device called a Jordan Rollover System (JRS) test rig; some preliminary results of a number of vehicles tested using the JRS test rig and a proposal of how vehicle rollover crashworthiness could be rated using the JRS test rig.