VIII. Other Issues

FMVSS No. 214 currently prohibits any side door that is struck by the moving deformable barrier from separating totally from the vehicle (currently in S5.3.1 of the standard). The standard also requires any door (including a rear hatchback or tailgate) that is not struck by the moving deformable barrier to meet the following requirements: (a) the door shall not disengage from the latched position; (b) the latch shall not separate from the striker, and the hinge components shall not separate from each other or from their attachment to the vehicle; and (c) neither the latch nor the hinge systems of the door shall pull out of their anchorages. This NPRM proposes to have the same door opening prohibitions apply to vehicles tested in the vehicle-to-pole tests.

According to 1999 and 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, the front outboard seating positions account for 89.2 percent of total fatalities and 88.8 percent of total injured occupants in passenger cars, and 86.6 percent and 87.6 percent of total fatalities and total injured occupants in LTVs. While these are for all crash conditions, the percentages for side impacts to narrow objects are similar. In nearside crashes, rear occupants make up 7.3 percent, 10.2 percent and 4.4 percent of seriously injured persons in crashes with passenger cars, LTVs and narrow objects, respectively. According to 1997-2001 NASS CDS annualized fatality distribution for rear outboard occupants, there were 22 fatalities caused by a vehicle-to-pole side crash, 7 of which were due to head injury.

The test procedure for the vehicle-to-pole test would call for a test dummy in the front outboard seating position nearest to the side impacting the pole, as in FMVSS No. 201. FMVSS No. 201 does not use a test dummy in the rear seat. Comments are requested on applying the pole test to the rear seat.

We have tentatively decided not to apply the test to the rear seat. This NPRM focuses on the front seat because years of conducting the optional pole test in FMVSS No. 201 have yielded substantial information about meeting pole test requirements in that seat. Less information is known about the rear seat. We have also sought to contain the costs of this rulemaking. Applying the test to rear seats would require at least twice as many tests per vehicle.

Furthermore, NHTSA believes that the countermeasure likely to be widely used to meet the requirements of the proposed vehicle-to-pole test will be air curtains, some of which currently cover both front and rear side window openings and thus provide protection to rear seat occupants. NHTSA tentatively concludes that those air curtains will be large enough to cover both front and rear side window openings. Comments are requested on manufacturers' plans to tether air curtains to the A- and C-pillars of vehicles.

Background. The agency has been concerned about the potential risks of side impact air bags (SIAB) to out-of-position (OOP) occupants, particularly children, from the first appearance of side air bag systems in vehicles. NHTSA initiated research in the fall of 1998 into the interactions between OOP children and side air bags. In April 1999, NHTSA held a public meeting to discuss the potential benefits and risks of side impact air bags and the development of possible test procedures to assess those risks. [54]

Safety Need. The agency has investigated more than 92 side impact air bag deployment crashes through NHTSA's Special Crash Investigations unit in order to determine whether a problem exists related to OOP occupants. There have been no fatalities and only one confirmed AIS 3+ injury due to a side air bag, this to a 76-year-old male driver. Side air bags [55] do not appear to pose a safety risk to OOP children, even taking into account exposure risks.

Technical Working Group Recommended Procedures. In July 1999, the Alliance, AIAM, the Automotive Occupant Restraints Council, and IIHS formed a technical working group (TWG) to develop recommended test procedures and performance requirements to evaluate the risk of side air bags to children who are out-of-position. In August 2000, the TWG issued a draft report, "Recommended Procedures For Evaluating Occupant Injury Risk From Deploying Side Air bags," The Side Air Bag Out-Of-Position Injury Technical Working Group, Adrian K. Lund (IIHS) Chairman, August 8, 2000. This report was revised in July 2003. The proposed procedures were based on the work of Working Group 3 of the International Organization of Standard (ISO) Technical Committee 10, which had developed draft procedures for evaluating side impact air bags. "Road Vehicles-Test Procedures for Evaluating Occupant Interactions with Deploying Side Impact Airbags." The ISO procedures were finalized in October 2001 (ISO -TR 14933, October 2001).

Under the TWG procedures, a 5th percentile female side impact dummy (SID-IIs), a 3-year-old and a 6-year old Hybrid III frontal child dummy are placed in several positions close to the air bag systems. The TWG procedures address side air bags that deploy from the seat backs (seat-mounted), those that deploy from the door or rear quarter panel, typically just below the window sill (side-mounted), those that deploy from the roof rail above the door (roof-mounted), and roof-rail and seat back/door systems. After the dummy is positioned as specified in the procedures, the air bag is deployed statically, and the dummy injury measures due to the deployment of the air bag are determined. The measured forces are compared to TWG's "Injury Reference Values" and "Injury Research Values."[56] The TWG's limits on the Injury Reference Values are mostly the same as those in FMVSS No. 208 for OOP testing of frontal air bags.

NHTSA initiated a research program to evaluate the TWG procedures and propose, if necessary, any alternatives and modifications to assess the injury risk to OOP children. The agency's test program included 11 vehicles equipped with front seat side air bags and one vehicle equipped with rear seat side air bags. The TWG OOP test procedures were used as the baseline for selecting test positions. However, tests were performed with the basic TWG procedures with and without NHTSA variations. Many different types of production systems, including door-mounted thorax bags, seat-mounted head-thorax combination bags, and roof mounted head protection systems, were tested using 3-year old and 6-year old Hybrid-III child dummies. The results were reported in a technical paper, "Evaluation of Injury Risk from Side Impact Air Bags." (Proceedings of the 17th ESV Conference, June 2001, Paper # 331.) The main purpose of the test program was to assess the potential safety risks that any system could pose to OOP small adults and children due to deploying side air bags.

The main observations from the agency's research is summarized in the following:

Future Action. Door- and seat-mounted side impact head and/or chest protection systems in future vehicles might need to be more aggressive compared to current systems. Comments are requested on how meeting the requirements proposed by this NPRM would affect manufacturers' ability to meet the TWG procedures. The agency is conducting additional tests of the newer side air bag systems that are able to comply with the pole test requirements to assess their risks, if any. The agency will continue to monitor compliance with the TWG test procedures and requirements by automotive manufacturers. In addition, the agency will conduct further testing of new air bag designs. The knowledge gained from the test program will allow us to take any appropriate action in this area if there are indications it is warranted.

Currently, FMVSS No. 201 specifies an optional 90-degree, 29 km/h (18 mph) pole test using a SID-H3 driver dummy (1000 HIC test criterion). As noted above, this test was part of a set of amendments adopted to accommodate the installation of head protection systems (HPS) in the pillar and side rail areas. If a vehicle complies with the pole test requirements, the 24.0 km/h (15 mph) head form test is reduced to 19.3 km/h (12 mph) for targets near the stowed HPS.

This NPRM proposes to amend FMVSS No. 201 such that, if the proposed oblique 32 km/h (20 mph) pole test were added to FMVSS No. 214, vehicles certified to that test would be excluded from the 90-degree, 29 km/h (18 mph) pole test in FMVSS No. 201. The agency tentatively concludes that a vehicle that meets the oblique 32 km/h (20 mph) pole test would also meet FMVSS No. 201's 90-degree 29 km/h (18 mph) test. Seat-mounted SIABs that deploy into an area far enough forward to cushion an occupant's head in an oblique impact are also likely to protect the head in a perpendicular one. Similarly, an air curtain tethered to the A- and C-pillars would also provide coverage in both an oblique and perpendicular crash. Since the FMVSS No. 214 pole test would encompass and go beyond the pole crash replicated by the FMVSS No. 201 pole test, there does not seem to be a need for the latter test. Thus, the agency proposes to eliminate the FMVSS No. 201 optional pole test for vehicles certified to the FMVSS No. 214 oblique pole test, to delete an unnecessary test burden on manufacturers. Note, however, that targets near the stowed HPS would still be subject to the head form test of FMVSS No. 201, conducted at the 19.3 km/h (12 mph) test speed specified in that standard.

Today's proposal is consistent with NHTSA's international harmonization policy goal of harmonizing with non-U.S. safety requirements except to the extent needed to address safety problems here in the U.S.

Dynamic Test For Head Protection. Worldwide, there are numerous countries that have side impact protection requirements or governmental or non-governmental side impact consumer information programs. Similar to NHTSA's NCAP program, the European NCAP (Euro NCAP) program seeks to provide consumers with reliable and accurate comparative information for use in making purchasing decisions. Euro NCAP incorporates a side impact program, which involves a 50 kph (30 mph) barrier impact into the driver's side of a car, and an optional 29 km/h (18 mph) 90 degree pole test. (EuroNCAP Side impact testing Protocol, Version 4, January 2003.)  While these side impact programs are similar to those of the U.S., the safety need addressed by those programs is different from the side impact safety need in the U.S. There are more LTVs in the U.S. fleet than elsewhere. Vehicle compatibility is a relatively unique U.S. problem.

The European Community's side impact safety regulation, EU Directive 96/27/EC, is similar to existing FMVSS No. 214 in specifying a side impact of a moving deformable barrier into the stationary target vehicle. Similar to the MDB test of FMVSS No. 214, a 50th percentile male dummy is placed in the front seat of the target vehicle. (FMVSS No. 214 also specifies placement of another 50th percentile dummy in the vehicle's rear seat. [57])

The agency has tentatively concluded that adopting our proposed vehicle-to-pole test into FMVSS No. 214 would result in significantly greater benefits than those that would accrue from adopting EU 96/27/EC or the Euro NCAP side impact test into the standard.[58] The side impact tests of EU 96/27/EC and Euro NCAP moving barrier test address mainly the chest injury problem. The barrier used in those tests is not representative of the vehicles in the U.S. fleet, which has more SUVs and other LTVs as compared to the European fleet. Further, these tests do not simulate an impact with an exterior narrow rigid structure--which constitutes a serious safety problem today—nor do they address head protection in the manner addressed by our proposed pole test.

Although the Euro NCAP optional pole test is closer to today 's NPRM in addressing head protection, the Euro NCAP test is basically the same as the optional FMVSS No. 201 test. NHTSA believes that the oblique pole test proposed today would provide significantly more benefits than those from either of these 90-degree 29 km/h (18 mph) tests.

Work is continuing internationally on a side impact pole test. The International Harmonized Research Activities (IHRA) [59] Side Impact Working Group (SIWG) is actively researching the side impact problem and has proposed that several test procedures for protecting the struck side occupant in side impact crashes be subjected to validation testing. The IHRA SIWG has agreed to adopt NHTSA's oblique impact pole test, pending the results of those validation tests. It has also agreed that head form impact tests similar to that of FMVSS No. 201 is necessary for protecting the occupants on the struck side as the tests pertain to the targets that are likely to be contacted by an occupant's head in a side impact crash. [60]

Test Dummies and Injury Criteria. Incorporation of the ES-2 dummy into FMVSS No. 214 in both the vehicle-to-pole and MDB tests would be a step toward harmonizing the standard with non-U.S. regulations. The ES-2 dummy is used in the non-governmental Euro NCAP side impact program. While the ES-2 dummy has not yet replaced the EuroSID-1 dummy in the side impact directive of the European Union (EU 96/27/EC), there is work underway in WP.29 to replace EuroSID-1 in ECE Regulation 95 with the ES-2, and in the European Union to subsequently amend the EU Directive accordingly. As noted earlier in this preamble, the GRSP Working Party to WP.29 transmitted a recommended amendment to ECE Regulation 95 to WP.29 for consideration by AC.1 at its November 2003 meeting. The GRSP specifically urged consideration of NHTSA's actions to fix the back plate of the ES-2 by way of the rib extensions.

The injury criteria proposed in this notice for the ES-2re dummy are consistent with the injury criteria now in EU 96/27/EC. The proposed 42 mm (1.65 in) requirement for maximum chest deflection for the ES-2re, the 2,500 N (562 lb) abdominal load injury criterion and the 6,000 N (1,349 lb) pubic symphysis load injury criterion are the same as those applied in the European side impact regulation EU 96/27/EC.

At this time, the SID-IIs is not used by other countries for regulatory purposes, but Canada uses the dummy for side impact research. Canada does not use the FRG version of the dummy.

IX. Estimated Benefits and Costs of Proposed Pole Test

We are placing in the docket a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) to accompany this NPRM.[61] The PEA analyzes the potential impacts of the proposed vehicle-to-pole side impact test and the modifications to the MDB test. A summary of the PEA follows. Comments are requested on the analyses.

Benefits. The agency first identified the baseline target population and then estimated the fatality or injury reduction rate. The target population was defined as occupants who sustained fatal and/or AIS 3+ injuries to the head, chest, abdomen or pelvis in side crashes. The target population was initially estimated to be 2,910 fatalities and 7,248 AIS 3-5 injuries in crashes with a delta-V of 19 to 40 km/h (12-25 mph). When adjusted using the 2003 seat belt use rate, the target population estimate was 2,874 fatalities and 7,243 MAIS 3-5 injuries. Target fatalities and MAIS 3-5 injuries were derived from 1997-2001 CDS. In identifying the target population, occupants with heights of 165 cm (65 inches) or taller were assumed to be represented by the 50th percentile male dummy (the SID-H3 or the ES-2re), and the remaining occupants were assumed to be represented by the 5th percentile female dummy (the SID-IIsFRG).

The agency estimated the lives and serious injuries prevented by wider thorax and head window curtain air bags in pole/tree impacts, vehicle-to-vehicle/other road side object crashes (including partial ejections), and non-rollover complete ejections. The analysis assumed that benefits would only accrue in crashes with delta-V in the 19 to 40 km/h (12 to 25 mph) range. Taking into account the presence of head and thorax side air bags already in the MY 2003 new vehicle fleet, the incremental benefits would be 686 fatalities saved and 880 AIS 3-5 injuries prevented if a combination air bag, 2-sensor (per vehicle) system were used. (The combination air bag, 2-sensor system would be the least expensive side air bag system that would enable a vehicle to meet the standard.)  If a window curtain and thorax air bag 2-sensor system were used, the benefits would be 1,027 fatalities saved and 919 MAIS 3-5 injuries prevented. If a window curtain and thorax air bag 4-sensor system were used, the benefits are estimated to be 1,032 fatalities saved and 1,037 MAIS 3-5 injuries prevented.

The agency's estimates are based on the distribution of the different types of side air bag systems in the MY 2003 new vehicle fleet, i.e., the percentage of side air bags providing head protection only, those providing thorax protection only, and those providing both head and thorax protection. The distribution of these systems within the new vehicle fleet has changed over the years, e.g., head-only and head/thorax bags increased from MY 2002 to MY 2003, while thorax-only side air bags decreased during that period (see Table V-103 of the PEA for a distribution of side air bag systems in MY 1999-2003 vehicles). Yet, overall, the MY 2003 new vehicle fleet had a lower percent of side air bags than the MY 2002 fleet. Comments are requested on the agency's use of MY 2003 side air bag installation rates as a baseline, the trend in side air bag installation rates, and the ability of the different air bag systems to meet our oblique pole test.

Costs. In the PEA, the agency discusses the costs of the different technologies that could be used to comply with the tests and also estimates compliance tests costs. The agency tentatively concludes that the majority of vehicle manufacturers currently installing side head air bag systems might need to make their present air bags wider. They might not need to add side impact sensors to their vehicles or develop more advanced sensors to meet an oblique pole test. As noted above, NHTSA estimates that the combination air bag, 2-sensor system would be the least expensive side air bag system that would enable a vehicle to meet the standard. The cost for two wider combination head/thorax side air bags with two sensors is estimated to be $121 per vehicle. Accounting for the degree to which the MY 2003 fleet already has combination side air bags, the average vehicle incremental cost to meet the proposed requirements is estimated to be $91 per vehicle. If a window curtain, thorax side air bag system were installed with 4 sensors, the average incremental cost per vehicle would be $264. Given the number of vehicles in the MY 2003 fleet that now have wide window curtains and wide thorax side air bags with four sensors, the average vehicle incremental cost to meet this proposal is estimated to be $208 per vehicle (2002 dollars). This amounts to a range of $1.6 to $3.6 billion for the total incremental annual cost of this proposed rule.

Net Cost Per Fatality Prevented. NHTSA estimated the net costs per equivalent life saved, using a 3 and a 7 percent discount rate. Assuming manufacturers were to install a combination head/thorax 2-sensor side air bag system, at a 3 percent discount rate, the cost per equivalent life saved would be $1.8 million. Assuming manufacturers were to install separate window curtains and thorax air bags with four sensors, the high end of the range is estimated to be $3.7 million per equivalent life saved, using a 7 percent discount rate.

Net Benefits. Net benefit analysis differs from cost effectiveness analysis in that a net benefits analysis involves assigning a monetary value to the estimated benefits. A comparison is then made of the monetary value of benefits to the monetary value of costs, to derive a net benefit. NHTSA estimates that the high end of the net benefits is $1,447 million for the combination head/thorax air bags using a 3 percent discount rate. The low end is negative $202 million for the curtain plus thorax bags with four sensors, using a 7 percent discount rate. Both of these are based on a $3.5 million cost per life.


[54] The agency has placed materials in Docket NHTSA-1999-5098 relating to the risks to out-of-position occupants from SIAB.

[55] For the purposes of this discussion, "side air bags” means side thorax air bags and combination thorax/head air bags, and not side head air bags. Our testing found no reason for concern with side head air bags (window curtains or inflatable tubular structures) and out-of-position children or adults.

[56] Injury Reference Values are those that the majority of the TWG believed have a strong scientific basis. Injury Research Values are those that TWG believes currently have less scientific support or insufficient test experience to allow full confidence in their accuracy.

[57] The test differs from FMVSS No. 214 in other ways. The MDB has a mass of 950 kg (2,095 lb) compared to 1,367 kg (3,015 lb) for the U.S. barrier. The European barrier's face is smaller and much softer than the U.S. barrier on the blocks closest to the sides. The bottom edge is the most forward part of the European MDB and is 300 mm (11.8 in) from the ground. The U.S. barrier face's bottom edge is 280 mm (11.0 in) from the ground and has a 330 mm (13 in) bumper height. In EU 96/27/EC, the barrier impacts the target vehicle at 50 km/h (30 mph) and 90 degrees with no crab angle. (In FMVSS No. 214, the stuck vehicle's wheels are crabbed to simulate movement of the target vehicle.) The injury criteria associated with the EuroSID-1 differ from that of SID. EU 96/27/EC limits HIC, rib deflection (42 mm), Viscous Criterion (1.0), abdominal force (2.5 kN) and the pubic symphysis force (6 kN).

[58] The side impact protection requirements promulgated by Japan (Article 18 Attachment 23, "Technical Standard for the Protection of the Occupants in the Event of a Lateral Collision”) and Australia (Australian Design Rule 72/00, "Dynamic Side Impact Occupant Protection”) are those in ECE Regulation 95 EU/96/27/EC. A U.S. final rule adopting the vehicle-to-pole test proposed today would provide greater benefits than those requirements.

[59] IHRA is an inter-governmental initiative that aims to facilitate greater harmony of vehicle safety policies through multi-national collaboration in research.

[60] In addition, they are validating two different moving deformable barrier tests to accommodate the issues of fleet differences between countries. One is the IIHS test, the other is a test performed at the same mass and speed, but uses an advanced barrier face that better reflects the shape and stiffness of a passenger vehicle. The IHRA SIWG also has work underway to validate the test procedures developed by the Side Impact Airbag Out-of-Position Technical Working Group (TWG) for static side impact airbag tests.

[61] The PEA may be obtained by contacting Docket Management at the address or telephone number provided at the beginning of this document. You may also read the document via the Internet, by following the instructions in the section below entitled, "Viewing Docket Submissions.”  The PEA will be listed in the docket summary.