NHTSA Proposes Standard be Developed to Reduce Passenger Ejections Through Sidelites
December 1, 2009

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has submitted a proposal of rulemaking to develop a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 226 to reduce the partial and complete ejection of vehicle occupants through sidelites in crashes in rollover crashes.

The 167-page proposal was submitted to the Office of the Federal Register early this morning and could require manufacturers to meet the standard "by modifying existing side impact air bag curtains, and possibly supplementing them with advanced laminated glazing," according to the proposal.

"The curtains would be made larger so that they cover more of the window opening, made more robust to remain inflated longer, and made to deploy in both side impacts and in rollovers," writes NHTSA. "In addition, they would be tethered or otherwise designed
to keep the impactor within the vehicle."

Though NHTSA notes that it initially looked at laminated sidelites in vehicles to mitigate ejections from sidelites, it moved away from this method in 2002, "after observing that advanced glazing appeared to increase the risk of neck injury by producing higher neck shear loads and neck moments than impacts into tempered side glazing." It also determined this might be very costly.

"Moreover, because side curtain air bags were showing potential as an ejection mitigation countermeasure, NHTSA redirected its research and rulemaking efforts toward developing performance-based test procedures for an ejection mitigation standard," writes NHTSA.

Based on this, NHTSA is proposing a test "that requires ejection mitigation curtains to retain an impactor such that its displacement is limited to a specified distance outside of the window."

In developing the proposed standard, NHTSA says it looked at data from 1997 through 2005 and found that the majority of occupant injuries and fatalities by ejection from vehicles were from sidelites; during this period, NHTSA estimates that 23,624 were injured by ejection from sidelites, while 6,174 were killed. Likewise, NHTSA cites 3,488 injuries from ejection through windshields, along with 1,155 deaths.

The NHTSA will begin collecting public comments on the rule once it is published in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for tomorrow, December 2, according to the announcement. (CLICK HERE to view the full proposal.)

Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov; by mail to Docket Management Facility: U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001; by hand delivery to the above address; or by fax to 202/493-2251. Docket No. NHTSA-2009-0183 must be referenced.

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