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News of August 01, 2002


Holden Initiates Research And Crash Test Program To Improve Child Occupant Safety

Holden has initiated one of the most comprehensive research and crash test programs of its kind into the effectiveness of child restraints in Australia.

The program was carried out by Melbourne's Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and is the first laboratory crash test program undertaken in Australia to study the comparative performances of different types of child restraints in real vehicles.

The collaborative research effort reviewed a range of child restraints and evaluated their suitability for Holden vehicles.

The best performing of these - a forward facing child restraint which was selected on a number of criteria - will be made available through the Holden retailer network soon.

The research process used various standards, including suitability and ease of fit in a range of Holden vehicle types and sizes.

It also assessed the stability of the child restraints and the levels of protection offered in front and side impact crashes. These included a capacity to prevent the crash dummy head from contacting the vehicle interior, and an ability to contain the head in a side impact collision.

Commenting on the results of the program, Dr Judith Charlton, Senior Research Fellow at MUARC said: "In the range of restraints suitable for infants, the baby capsule style performed better than the rear facing convertible. For older children, the dedicated forward facing child seat generally performed better than the convertible in forward facing mode."

"One forward facing restraint in particular clearly showed better stability and head protection, due primarily to the configuration of the seat belt around its base and the large side wings surrounding the child's head. "Although we found that the restraints generally offered a good level of protection for children, our research highlighted a number of areas for design improvement. "These include the provision of better head protection in the case of a side impact crash and better methods of fixing the restraint to the car seat," Dr Charlton said. "Some methods of fixing the child seat to the vehicle offer better stability under load, particularly where the seat belt wraps around the front of the base of the restraint. "The large size of some child restraints is also a concern and buyers should be aware that many do not fit optimally in smaller vehicles," Dr Charlton concluded.

The child restraint research and crash test program is part of Holden's four part strategy to improve awareness and address current issues surrounding child safety in vehicles in Australia.

The first element in the strategy is a free national child seat inspection and education program that Holden is running in conjunction with the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia (known as Kidsafe).

"Because it's been established that more than 70 per cent of child restraints are incorrectly fitted or used in Australia, we are running a free inspection program to promote better protection through proper usage," Dr Laurie Sparke, Holden Chief Engineering, Advanced Engineering said.

Other components of Holden's strategy to improve child occupant protection include distributing the best performing child restraint from the MUARC study through the Holden retailer network.

Holden will also provide the results of the MUARC research and crash test program to child seat manufacturers, together with the design improvement recommendations.

The final part of Holden's long term strategy is to develop a range of next generation child seats that could potentially include restraints such as ISOfix, that are an integral part of the vehicle's seat design.

"The new generation Holden child restraint would incorporate improved head protection against side impact forces and address fitment problems encountered by our researchers," Dr Sparke said.

(July 29, 2002)

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