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New government rules for safer seats

New rules passed by NHTSA this week call for better head restraints and rear seat belts.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - December 13, 2004 - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration passed two new regulations this week designed to make car seats safer.

On Tuesday, the agency announced a new standard for head restraints aimed at reducing the number of whiplash injuries. The following day, NHTSA unveiled a rule requiring lap and shoulder safety belts for all rear center seats.

More than 270,000 whiplash injuries occur annually in motor vehicle crashes, the agency said.

The new standard will require that head restraints be higher and positioned closer to the head. It will also mandate that all head restraints be adjustable and that they lock in place once adjusted.

"By standardizing the best practices in head restraint performance, we can reduce the most common form of injury in rear-end collisions," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. "Many of these injuries are more than just a pain in the neck. They become chronic, painful, debilitating and costly."

All passenger vehicles, including pick-ups and sport/utility vehicles, that are manufactured starting in September 2008 will have to comply with the head restraint standard. NHTSA estimates the cost per vehicle of meeting the standard at about $4.51 for front seats and $1.13 for rear seats equipped with head restraints.

In recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, most of 73 seat/head restraint combinations received a rating of "Poor" for protecting occupants in slow to moderate-speed rear-end collisions.

Rear belts
Car manufacturers will also have to comply with the new rear center safety belt rule by 2008. Currently, 23 percent of new cars and about half of new light trucks -- a designation that includes SUVs -- have only a lap belt in the rear center seating position.

The new seatbelt rule will save and estimated 10 to 23 lives each year and will prevent 245 to 495 injuries a year, according to the agency.

Frankel grading system

Medical Glossary

Spinal cord injuries by the numbers

The Frankel Grade, according to the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, serves as a classification guide for spinal injuries. When a spinal cord injury occurs, patients are often told they have an injury at a given spinal cord level and are given a qualifier indicating the severity of injury, such as "complete" or "incomplete."

Tommy Rezza has a C classification injury.

Designation, Frankel Grade, Definition

A — Complete neurological injury. No motor or sensory function detected below level of lesion.

B — Preserved sensation only. No motor function detected below level of lesion, some sensory function below level of lesion preserved.

C — Preserved motor, nonfunctional. Some voluntary motor function preserved below level of lesion but too weak to serve any useful purpose, sensation may or may not be preserved.

D — Preserved motor, functional. Functionally useful voluntary motor function below level of injury is preserved.

E — Normal motor function. Normal motor and sensory function below level of lesion, abnormal reflexes may persist.

Automakers Earn honors in crash tests

KEN THOMAS; The Associated Press

November 22nd, 2005 - WASHINGTON – Sport utility vehicles made by Hyundai Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and Subaru of America Inc. earned top honors in new crash tests of sport utility vehicles, minivans and sedans. The majority of vehicles reviewed received either four or five stars Monday in frontal- and side-impact protection, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Top five: The Hyundai Sonata sedan and Tucson SUV, Honda Odyssey minivan, Mercedes-Benz ML Class SUV and Subaru B9 Tribeca SUV. All received five stars for front- and side-impact protection.

Runnersup: The Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Dakota, Nissan Armada and Ford Freestar.

Three stars: The Toyota Scion xB, Chevrolet Cobalt, Kia Rio and Pontiac Grand Prix.

Top rollover protection: The Pontiac G6 two-door coupe. The government estimated it has a 9 percent chance of rolling over.

Rollover tests: Every vehicle tested except the Pontiac G6 received four out of five stars. The rollover test simulates a driver steering sharply in one direction, then sharply in the other at speeds up to 50 mph.

Worst side-impact protection: The Mitsubishi Lancer. The four-door version was the only model to get two stars on side-impact protection for the driver. The score was based on previous testing and denotes a 21 to 25 percent chance of serious injury in a crash.

Mitsubishi response: Spokesman Dan Irvin noted that it was an old test and said that side curtain air bags will become standard equipment in the 2007 model year. The Lancer received top scores in frontal protection.

The ratings: For frontal tests, five stars means there is a 10 percent or less chance of serious injury. Four stars estimates a 11 percent to 20 percent chance of serious injury. NHTSA conducts the front-impact test at 35 mph; the side-impact test is conducted at 38.5 mph.

Driver tries to avoid deer on Thruway, flips SUV

Victoria E. Freile
Staff writer

(July 3, 2007) — New York state police are continuing to investigate a crash that occurred early Monday on the New York state Thruway in Ontario County.

Troopers were called to the westbound lanes of the Thruway just before 4:45 a.m., when it was reported that a Mercury Mountaineer sport utility vehicle had overturned, said Sgt. Michael Kopp. Eight people — four adults and four children — were in the vehicle at the time of the crash, said Trooper Timothy Brennan.

The accident took place near mile marker 337, near Exit 43 in Manchester.

Brennan said the driver, Belinda K. Sweeney, 28, of Liverpool, Onondaga County, was traveling west and swerved several times to avoid striking a deer. The vehicle overturned and came to rest upright along the north side of the Thruway, he said.

One passenger — Edward B. Wood, 33, of Liverpool — was ejected from the vehicle.

He was the only person not wearing a seat belt, Brennan said. Wood sustained serious injuries including a collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen.

Sweeney and her mother, Bonnie K. Sweeney, 53, of Syracuse, were also seriously injured in the crash. Belinda Sweeney injured her neck and back, and Bonnie Sweeney, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, sustained a head injury, Brennan said.

All three people were transported to Strong Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Wood and Bonnie Sweeney were both listed in guarded condition; Belinda Sweeney was discharged, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The fourth adult and the four children in the vehicle — who were between 7 and 14 years old — were not seriously injured, he said.

The deer ran away from the scene.

Troopers said that the crash did not block any lanes on the Thruway and had little impact on traffic because of the time of day.

Belinda Sweeney was ticketed for unsafe lane change, Brennan said.



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