Title page for ETD etd-05082002-181913

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jernigan, Mary Virginia
Author's Email Address majernig@vt.edu
URN etd-05082002-181913
Title Statistical Analysis and Computational Modeling of Injuries in Automobile Crashes
Degree Master of Science
Department Mechanical Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Duma, Stefan M. Committee Chair
Herring, Ian P. Committee Member
Kasarda, Mary E. F. Committee Member
  • Airbag
  • Injury
  • Accident
  • Automobile
Date of Defense 2002-04-16
Availability unrestricted
Although airbags have reduced the incidence of fatal and severe injuries in automobile collisions, they have been shown to increase the risk of less severe injuries. The purpose of this research was to investigate particular occupants and injury types in automobile crashes in order to identify national trends in injury incidence, type, and severity. A statistical analysis was performed in order to determine the effects of airbag deployment on incidence and severity of various injury and occupant types. In addition, a computational modeling study aimed to recreate actual automobile crashes that occurred in order to identify injury mechanisms and occupant kinematics during the crash. The specific studies performed were designed to investigate the effects of frontal airbags on: skin injuries, burn injuries, eye injuries, orbital fractures, severe upper extremity injuries, and pregnant occupant injuries.

The statistical analyses revealed several significant findings in injury trends related to occupant exposure to airbag deployment. In particular, occupants in frontal crashes were significantly at a higher risk to sustain a skin injury (p=0.00), a burn injury (p=0.02), a corneal abrasion (p=0.03), and a severe upper extremity injury (p=0.01) when exposed to an airbag deployment, than when not exposed to an airbag deployment. In addition, female occupants were at a statistically higher risk of sustaining an airbag induced skin injury than males (p=0.00). Finally, within a 95% confidence interval, older occupants were at a higher risk for sustaining both airbag induced burn injuries, and severe upper extremity injuries. While occupants in crashes with lower impact velocities were at a higher risk for airbag induced burn injuries, occupants in crashes with higher impact velocities were more likely to sustain a severe upper extremity injury. The airbag increased the incidence of eye injuries for occupants in frontal crashes, however, it also decreased the severity of the associated eye injuries. In particular, occupants who sustained an orbital fracture when exposed to airbag deployment sustained mostly closed, less severe orbital fractures, while occupants not exposed to airbag deployment much more often sustained more severe, open, displaced, or comminuted orbital fractures.

While the airbag was shown to increase the risk of some injuries to particular occupants involved in specific crash types, the airbag appears to have provided a beneficial protective effect as it also reduced the severity of all injuries observed.

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