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Tests Show Life-Saving Potential Of Head Airbags

Crash Tests Show Life-Saving Potential Of Head Airbags

The latest crash test results from the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) provide further evidence that head-protecting side airbags can save lives and protect against serious injuries in side impacts.

Land Transport New Zealand Principal Vehicle Engineer Andrew Justice said the test results released today show that curtain airbags provide good head protection against side impacts with poles and high vehicles such as 4WDs. Head-protecting side airbags (curtain airbags) are fitted to the sides of a vehicle’s interior for the specific purpose of protecting occupants in side-impact crashes.

ANCAP ‘pole’ tests shunt vehicles sideways into a steel pole lined up with the driver’s head at 29 km/h to measure the level of head injury to vehicle occupants.

The vehicles tested were the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Nissan Patrol and Toyota Landcruiser, all without any side head airbags, the Mitsubishi Pajero with a side chest airbag only, and the Mazda Tribute with a side airbag including a head protection extension.

The Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Prado were tested with and without curtain airbags, and the Lexus RX330 had curtain airbags as standard equipment. ANCAP has previously tested the Subaru Forester, which has head protecting side airbags fitted as standard equipment.

Mr Justice said the tests showed a high risk of fatal head injuries to occupants in all of the vehicles without curtain airbags, while those with effective curtain airbags provided good occupant protection.

“ANCAP would like to see all vehicle manufacturers provide dual front, side chest and head airbags in all their models as standard equipment, or at least as a stand-alone safety option without being combined with extra items, which increase cost,” Mr Justice said.

ANCAP also advises buyers of new vehicles to specify electronic stability control (ESC) and ABS brakes where they are available, particularly on vehicles with a high centre of gravity such as 4WDs, to minimise the risk of being involved in a crash in the first place.

Research from the US and elsewhere indicates that ESC reduces run-off-road crashes by more than half - this has the indirect benefit of reducing roll-over crashes which often occur after vehicles leave the road. These crashes are associated with high levels of death and injury.

4WD Pole Test Launch

1 June 2005

Questions and Answers

What is ANCAP?

The Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has been crash testing and reporting on the performance of passenger cars and light commercial utilities sold in Australia and New Zealand since 1993. Based on these ongoing test results ANCAP gives consumers consistent information on the level of occupant protection provided by vehicles in serious front and side crashes.

ANCAP is a consortium of all the Australian motoring clubs, all Australian state governments, the New Zealand national government, the New Zealand Automobile Association and the motoring clubs international association, the FIA Foundation.

Why has ANCAP conducted pole tests?

Analysis of Australian crash data shows that fatal side impact crashes represent between 25 – 30% of all light vehicle crashes (depending on state). About 40% of these side impact crashes were into a tree or pole.

Head-protecting side airbags make crashes into poles or trees survivable and are also effective in other types of side impact crashes such as being hit by another vehicle where the bonnet enters the window at head height.

What is the pole test?

In the pole test, the car is propelled sideways at 29 km/hr into a rigid pole, which is lined up with the driver’s head. The pole is relatively narrow, so there is major penetration into the side of the car.


Why have these pole tests results been released without an overall rating, as normally undertaken by ANCAP?

Side impact crashes into poles and trees are an increasing cause of serious head injury to drivers and passengers in single vehicle crashes. Australian crash data, from Monash University Accident Research Centre shows that passenger 4WDs are over-represented in single vehicle crashes.

The pole tests demonstrate how head protecting side airbags (eg: curtain airbags) provide a higher level of protection to the occupants in side impact crashes as opposed to those 4WDs without head protecting side airbags. The test results show that vehicles with effective head protection provide good occupant protection in pole crashes, while occupants in vehicles without effective head protection are at a high risk of receiving a fatal head injury.

Aren’t 4WDs safer because they are bigger?

Crash data from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) showed that crashes involving 4WDs increased by 85% throughout the 1990s. Data from Monash University Accident Research Centre shows that 4WDs have a higher involvement in single vehicle crashes and that the injury outcomes for drivers of 4WDs are more severe than for passenger cars.

What does ANCAP mean for the motorist?

Motorists will be able to use the independent data provided by ANCAP to gain a greater awareness of the best possible safety accessories, and their performance, when purchasing a new vehicle.

© Scoop Media

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