Side impact accidents present unique dangers for all motorists, but especially for children. Side impact accidents are also called T-bone accidents because the two cars form the shape of a T. One vehicle going straight strikes the side of another vehicle going in a perpendicular direction, oftentimes at an intersection. The striking vehicle intrudes into the vehicle which is hit, and the side of the car provides limited or no protection for occupants.
Any driver or passenger occupying a car involved in a side-impact crash could be at risk of serious or fatal injuries. A study of crashes revealed 19 percent of the collisions were side-impact but 32 percent of crash deaths happened in side-impact accidents. This means there are a disproportionate number of fatalities of people of all ages in side-impact crashes.
Children, however, may be at even greater risk of injuries and fatalities in side-impact crashes, especially as there has been limited crash testing done to determine how car seats or child restraint systems protect them from harm.
Children at Risk of Injury or Fatalities in Side-Impact Accidents
According to Association for Advancement of Automotive Medicine, the fatality rate of kids who are in the car when a side-impact crash happens is 33 percent. Kids sitting on the side of the car which was hit by the other vehicle face the most significant risks associated with the crash. In front-impact crashes, by comparison, there is a 17 percent fatality rate for kids.
Kids who survive also sustain more serious injuries in side-impact accidents in comparison with other classifications of car crashes. Severity of injury may be measured by looking at a Maximum Abbreviated Injury Score (MAIS). MAIS scores go from one (minor injury) to nine (most serious injuries).
When front impact accident happens, 15 percent of kids involved in the crash report injuries with an MAIS score of two or greater. Two means the injury was moderate in severity. When comparing this data to side impact crashes, it is clear kids generally get more badly hurt in side-impact crashes. In T-bone collision accidents, 41 percent of kids five to nine have an abbreviated injury score exceeding two. This was almost three times the number in front-impact accidents.
Children who sustain serious injuries in front-impact accidents are much less likely to be wearing seat belts when compared with kids in side-impact accidents who are badly hurt. Among kids with an MAIS score of three or greater, 17 percent had seat belts on in front-impact accidents compared with 33 percent who had seat belts on in side-impact accidents.
Child restraint systems, in general, need to be more effective at prevention of side-impact crash injuries for children. In 2014, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first set forth proposals for crash testing of car seats in simulated side impact crashes. Car seat manufacturers were given three years of time to respond to testing, so hopefully important changes will be underway soon to make car seats and child restraint systems more effective in protecting kids involved in side-impact crashes.