All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Martha W Bidez

Advisory Committee Members

Mark Rosenberg

Herbert Shivers

Virginia Sisiopiku

Bharat Soni

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2013

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Engineering

Abstract

Motor vehicle collisions remain the number one cause of death for children in the United States, despite decades of prevention efforts led by safety experts and numerous private and government organizations. The overarching purpose of this research was to examine and compare the system safety factors that influence child passenger safety (CPS) with a particular focus on children living in poverty. The NASS-CDS and U.S. Census national databases were utilized to determine the effect of socioeconomic status on child occupant morbidity and mortality. The results of this analysis revealed for the first time, the disproportionate vulnerability of poor children in car crashes in the United States. Poor child occupants are less likely to be restrained and more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in vehicle collisions than children from areas with low levels of poverty. Socio-technical control models of CPS in the United States and in Sweden identified ineffectual controls in the United States, which allow for child occupants, especially poor children, to be disproportionately seriously or fatally injured. The lack of federal regulation requiring vehicle manufacturers to conduct dynamic testing of child restraints in their vehicles, combined with mandatory booster seat laws, force poor children into the lowest cost and least effective restraints available to them - backless boosters or adult, 3-point belts. A series of frontal sled tests were conducted to determine the efficacy of the backless booster and alternative restraint designs to prevent injurious axial neck forces in a 6-year-old Hybrid III ATD. A backless booster seat was found to increase the axial neck forces measured in the ATD in comparison to the axial neck loads measured in the ATD restrained in a 3-point belt. A belt pretensioner and optimized buckle design was shown to mitigate injurious axial neck loads in the ATD and was found to be a feasible, alternative design to the adult, 3-point belt. Recommendations for improved control mechanisms in the United States socio-technical control model of child passenger safety were made based on the results found in the socioeconomic data analyses, sled tests, and comparison with the socio-technical control model developed for Sweden.

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