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The National Academies

NCHRP 22-59 [Anticipated]

Safety Risks of Occupant Compartment Damage During Crashes

  Project Data
Funds: $750,000
Staff Responsibility: Richard A. Retting
Fiscal Year: 2023

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

During American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) crash tests, devices sometimes fail due to seemingly insignificant damage to the vehicle, as MASH does not allow for any part of the device to enter into the vehicle compartment. If there is any intrusion, the device fails that test. Some deformation of the vehicle occupant compartment is allowed, but varies by area of the vehicle. Although engineering judgment and experience indicate that minor deformation/penetration does not pose a safety risk to occupants, but MASH is very black and white in this area.

As with many AASHTO publications, early editions often contain guidance based on expert consensus rather than research, and as time goes on the committees request research to address these areas. Without solid information on the risk posed to vehicle occupants from some minor types of crash test damage, the thresholds in our documents need to err on the side of caution (e.g., “no penetration into the occupant compartment”).

This project seeks to make MASH testing thresholds more realistic, which can lead to increased development and use of MASH devices.

The objectives of this research are to:

1.     Evaluate and potentially update the MASH limits for test vehicle deformations.

2.     Test vehicle occupant compartment penetration to ensure the thresholds most appropriately represent potential safety risk to occupants in the current vehicle fleet.

As states, academia, and industry work to develop MASH hardware and fully implement MASH, some devices fail crash tests even though engineering judgement suggests that the devices appear to provide the desired protection to vehicle occupants. This research project will in part determine whether deformations and penetrations that appear to be relatively minor—but are currently cause for failed MASH crash tests—do in fact present a safety risk to vehicle occupants.

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