Assessment of the need for, and the likely benefits of, enhanced side impact protection in the form of a Pole Side Impact Global Technical Regulation
Side impact crashes represent a significant component of the number of people killed and seriously injured. Narrow object impacts, such as trees and poles, carry an especially high risk of fatality. It is estimated that 225 000 drivers and passengers of category M1 and N1 vehicles are killed each year in side impact crashes globally. Fatalities due to side impact crashes range from 5.6% (Japan) to 24.8% (Germany) of all road users killed. Moreover, high numbers of people are seriously injured and admitted to hospital due to side impact crashes. At the same time, evidence now points to a 32% reduction in fatalities and a 34% reduction in serious injuries associated with side curtain and thorax airbags.
Notwithstanding the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 214, at present there is no internationally accepted narrow object side impact regulatory test. It is recognised that curtain and thorax airbags, among other structural modifications to the vehicle, would be required for a vehicle to pass a performance-based pole side impact test. It is expected that these additions and modifications would translate to reductions in the number of occupants killed and injured in side impact crashes.
Within this context, the Australian Government sponsored the development of a United Nations Global Technical Regulation (UN GTR) on Pole Side Impact (PSI) under the 1998 United Nations Agreement concerning the establishing of global technical regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or be used on wheeled vehicles. A key step in ensuring the acceptance of the proposed PSI GTR is the establishment of the ‘safety need’. That is: Is the current number of side impact crashes and their associated injury severity sufficient to warrant the development of a new global standard? This report addresses this question.
Analysis of police-reported data from the UK and Australia demonstrates the high injury severity associated with side impact crashes, including vehicle-to-vehicle side impact crashes and impacts with fixed objects. In particular, pole side impact crashes are seen to be associated with higher rates of injury as well as higher rates of serious injury. Analysis of in-depth crash data from Australia, the UK and Germany supports this finding.
The incremental benefit of the proposed PSI GTR for Australia was modelled. After considering the likely crash reduction benefits associated with electronic stability control, considerable fatality and serious injury reductions would be realised through the implementation of the PSI GTR. Throughout the first 30 years, the improved side impact safety requirements demanded by the PSI GTR will translate to 761 fewer passenger car (M1) and light commercial vehicle (N1) occupant fatalities (of which 675 were front row occupants), and a substantial reduction in the number of severe head injuries and other serious injuries. The combined economic saving is approximately $AU 3.47 billion for an outlay of $AU 0.726 billion for a BCR of 4.77:1 for vehicles designed to protect the front and rear seating positions. The bulk of these savings are driven by the front row occupant. Also, the introduction of the PSI GTR is highly cost effective for both the M1 and N1 vehicle segments individually, and sensitivity analysis highlights the robust nature of the benefits across a range of benefit scenarios and cost structures in meeting the PSI GTR.
This report highlights the injurious nature of side impact crashes and demonstrates the urgent need for improved side impact protection. It is concluded that the adoption of a requirement for vehicles to pass an oblique narrow object side impact performance-based standard will deliver significant benefit to the community.