Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Child Occupant Protection Research at CIRP: Progressing Child Passenger Safety Research

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and disability among all children, and result in more than 400,000 injuries to children less than 18 years old annually. The Center has been investigating child passenger safety for over 20 years, when its founders identified the deployment of front passenger air bags as a cause of fatal injury for children, even in minor crashes. Because children are not simply "small adults," there remains a need for research into age-appropriate child restraint systems, vehicle designs for optimal child protection, and best practices for child passenger safety.

Biomechanics data are needed to improve specific body regions of pediatric anthropometric test devices (ATDs), commonly referred to as crash test dummies, and to develop innovative restraint products to make vehicles safer for children in the future.

Areas of Child Occupant Protection Research

Current Child Occupant Protection Projects:

Dynamic Volunteer Testing

  • Low Acceleration Time Extended Events-- In a collaboration between CIRP@CHOP, Drexel University, and University of Virginia, this line of research aims to quantify the movement of motor vehicle occupants during pre-crash avoidance maneuvers utilizing a sled that mimics vehicle swerving. Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD; Funding:TK Holdings Inc. (Takata Corp.)
  • Motion and Muscle Activation of Young Volunteers in Evasive Vehicle Maneuvers-- This project builds on the Low Acceleration Time Extended Events project and examines responses of rear seat occupants to emergency maneuvers in a real vehicle rather than in a laboratory setting. In partnership with The Ohio State University Injury Biomechanics Research Center and the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics, the research team has conducted an on-road (test track) assessment using professional drivers where video, electromyography, and motion capture data was captured on rear seat restrained occupants age 6 years and older. The goal is to optimize vehicle restraint and seat design to provide protection in these common real-world scenarios. Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD; Funding:Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center

Restraint Design, Testing, and Optimization

  • An Analysis of the Interaction between Child Occupants and Deploying Frontal Passenger Air Bags- A Modern Examination -- This project explores and quantifies the injury potential for children in front of a deploying modern front passenger air bag for those in forward-facing child restraints and booster seats across a range of misuse conditions and crash scenarios. Principal Investigator: Aditya Belwadi, PhD; Funding: Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS)
  • Analysis of the Response of Shield-based Child Restraints with Human Body Models -- This project explores and builds upon the first open source human body finite element model of a 6-year-old, PIPER, to understand responses in a shield child restraint. Responses of the PIPER model will be compared to a traditional 6-year-old Q series dummy. Principal Investigator: Aditya Belwadi, PhD; Funding: CYBEX Inc.

Child Passenger Safety and Behavioral Science

  • Parental Driving Behaviors of Child Passengers Ages 4-10 Years -- This study aims to create a broader picture related to parental driving behaviors and the implications on child passengers and, ultimately, teen drivers. By investigating factors influencing booster seat use, misuse and non-use, as well as developing an understanding of how risky driving behaviors like distracted driving may be associated with child passenger safety practices, more precise targets for interventions for parents as drivers can be developed. Principal Investigator: Catherine McDonald, PhD, RN; Funding: Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS)

     Read the study abstract.
     Read the press release.
     Read a blog post about this study.

Completed and Foundational Projects:

  • Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) -- Partners for Child Passenger Safety was the world's largest child-focused motor vehicle crash surveillance system. Partners for Child Passenger Safety collected data on 875,000 children in crashes from 1998 to 2007. Dozens of publications led by the CIRP team used PCPS data to describe mechanisms of injury and restraint effectiveness for child passengers. Principal Investigators: Flaura Winston, MD, PhD; Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE
  • Kinematic Response of Pediatric and Adult Human Volunteers to Automotive-Like Loading Conditions -- Researchers at CHOP collaborated with TK Holdings Inc. (Takata Corp.), Rowan University, and University of Virginia to develop the first low-speed human volunteer sled to test pediatric subjects. Principal Investigators: Kristy Arbogast, PhD; Thomas Seacrist, MBE
  • Boosting Restraint Norms Among At Risk Groups -- This community-based social marketing campaign was designed to promote booster seat use among at-risk populations. The campaign is steeped in Partners for Child Passenger Safety data, focus group testing of messages and interventions with parents of booster seat-aged children in both the US and Beijing, China. Principal Investigator: Flaura K. Winston, MD, PhD
  • National Child Occupant Special Study (NCOSS) -- In a series of pilot studies, CIRP researchers determined the appropriate methods of subject recruitment and data collection for a national child-focused supplemental crash data collection system. Principal Investigators: Allison Curry, PhD, MPH; Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE
  • Quantifying CRS Fit in Vehicle Seat Environment: Digitization Approach -- In this multi-year project, researchers developed a methodology for digitization of child restraint systems (CRS) using the Microsoft Xbox Kinect Sensor™.  Virtual surrogates were created of nearly 290 commercially available CRS as of April 2016, allowing vehicle manufacturers to understand the breadth of CRS dimensions and take them into account when designing new vehicles. Principal Investigator: Aditya Belwadi, PhD
  • Quantifying Children’s Posture in the Rear Seat: A Naturalistic Study -- This line of research was a large multidisciplinary collaboration of engineers and behavioral scientists led by Australia’s Monash University to quantify differences between optimal posture and position of child occupants in the rear seat and actual position and posture through a large scale naturalistic study. Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD
  • Evaluation of Reminder Technology to Prevent Pediatric Heat Stroke -- This study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, evaluated products designed to prevent children 0 to 24 months of age from being left behind accidentally in closed, parked vehicles, which could potentially lead to heat stroke. Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD
  • Evaluation of Side Impacts with a Frontal Component for Children in Child Restraint Systems -- In collaboration with Medical College of Wisconsin, researchers examined the injury potential to a 3-year-old center- or far-side occupant in side-impact or oblique crashes. We explored the role of the tether and intrusion on kinematics and injury potential as well as the effect of various lower attachment methods to control head excursion. Principal Investigator: Kristy Arbogast, PhD
  • Determination of Pediatric Chest Stiffness Through Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) -- Leveraging a novel device used on children receiving chest compressions for CPR, researchers have quantified the chest's biomechanical response. A sensor that measures the force and magnitude of chest displacement during compressions provides data for calculating chest stiffness. This information can then be compared to the chests of crash test dummies to ensure that they are child-like. Principal Investigator: Matthew R. Maltese, PhD
  • Comparing FMVSS 213 Sled Test to the Full-Scale Vehicle Crash Environment -- This multi-year line of research aimed to influence child restraint system design and safety by developing a method to provide data-driven assessment of the ability of the regulatory sled test that governs evaluations of child restraint performance—FMVSS 213—to mimic actual vehicle crashes. Principal Investigator: Matthew R. Maltese, PhD