Side impact or T-bone accidents - which occur when one vehicle strikes the side of another - are among the most dangerous types of crashes on the roads. These accidents cause around 10,000 fatalities per year and a study of crashes showed T-bone accidents accounted for 32 percent of deaths despite making up just 19 percent of total accidents.
Every driver and passenger is in jeopardy when a side-impact crash happens. However, children may be especially vulnerable to getting hurt. This is especially true if the child is on the side of the vehicle where the car is hit.
While car seats and other child restraint systems can help to prevent injuries in most car crashes, these systems are not as effective as they should be in protecting kids in T-bone accidents. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun taking some steps to try to improve safety, but the steps may not be enough.
Kids at Risk in Side-Impact Accidents
A published study in Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine emphasized the severe risks children face when involved in T-bone accidents. When children were involved in these accidents, 23 percent sustained an injury considered clinically significant. Of the clinically significant injuries:
- 39 percent were head-injuries.
- 22 percent were extremity injuries.
- 17 percent were abdominal injuries.
The injuries happened even in more minor side-impact crashes.
The injuries of children in all side-impact accidents can be measured on the Maximum Abbreviated Injury Score scale. The scale goes from one to nine, with higher numbers indicating more serious injuries.
In 41 percent of side impact crashes, children aged five to nine had a MAIS score of at least two. In front impact accidents, which are also considered among the more dangerous types of crashes, only 15 percent of children had an MAIS score of at least two. Two means a moderate injury occurred.
High MAIS scores in other types of crashes are usually correlated to lack of seat belt use. Just 17 percent of children in front impact crashes with an MAIS score of three or greater were wearing a seat belt. In side-impact crashes, 33 percent of children with MAIS scores of three or greater had seat belts on.
This suggests while seat belts are still helpful in saving lives, they are not as effective in prevention of deadly or serious injuries which children experience in side impact accidents.
Fatality rates are also much higher for children in side impact accidents. Thirty-percent of children involved in these crashes lose their lives, compared with 17 percent in head-on accidents.
Hopefully seat belts and other child restraint systems will become safer in the future. NHTSA introduced crash testing focused on child restraint systems performance in side impact collisions through a proposed rule in 2014. The rule indicated car seat makers would have a period of three years to adjust design processes in response to crash tests.
While this means change could be slow, at least introducing crash tests related to child protection in side impact cases is a step in the right direction towards preventing child injuries in T-bone accidents.