Crash characteristics and injury outcomes for older passenger car occupants
journal contributionposted on 04.09.2006, 12:02 by Ruth WelshRuth Welsh, Andrew MorrisAndrew Morris, Ahamedali Hassan, Judith Charlton, Brian Fildes
For some time now, it has been recognised that a major shift is occurring in the population age distributions of most motorised countries resulting in a growing number of older persons with an increasing need for mobility. It is expected that the mobility of older persons will become even more reliant on the motor vehicle as European countries in particular undergo transitions towards decentralisation and suburbanisation and because of the well-established longevity factor. This study compares injury outcomes in passenger car crashes for belted occupants of different ages. The study considers drivers and front seat passengers. National accident data in the UK show that whilst older car occupants are less likely to be involved in a car accident than younger occupants, in the event of a crash, older occupants are more likely to be killed or to sustain serious injury. This, in conjunction with the increasing numbers of older licence holder and car users implies that the protection of the inherently frail elderly should become a priority for the future. Analysis of the UK in-depth accident data revealed that the older car occupants were significantly more prone to serious chest injury than their younger counterparts and that these injuries were predominantly due to forces exerted by the restraint system, particularly in frontal impacts. Since by the year 2030 one in four persons will be aged over 65 in most Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the results suggest a need for intervention through vehicle design including in-vehicle crashworthiness systems that take into account the reduced tolerance to impact that occurs with ageing.