BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Holiday travelers: Listen up and buckle up.
New research shows that unbelted backseat passengers risk injury or death to themselves and the driver seated in front of them in the event of a head-on crash.
Automobile sled tests simulating head-on crashes between two vehicles and using crash-test dummies have demonstrated the likelihood of severe head and chest traumas for driver and passenger caused by an unbelted passenger slamming into the seat of a belted driver.
The risk of severe injury was not evident during sled tests involving driver and passenger dummies restrained by seat belts, according to the researchers. A driver's side airbag was used in all tests.
"The tests show clearly that unrestrained rear-seat passengers place themselves, as well as their driver, at great risk of serious injury when involved in a head-on crash," says lead researcher James Mayrose, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Tests using unbelted "adult" crash dummies and dummies approximating the size and weight of a six-year-old child showed similar results: severe chest and head trauma for both passenger and belted driver, according to Mayrose.
The injuries were indicated by sensors mounted to and within the dummies. The sensors showed significant acceleration of the dummies' head, neck and chest, as well as dramatic impact loads to these body parts. All sled tests were conducted according to the protocols of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.
"It doesn't matter if it's an adult-sized person seated behind you, a small child, or even if you have packages or luggage placed in the seat behind you, if they are not belted or safely secured, they can inflict fatal injuries to a driver," Mayrose warns.