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The proper seating position is key in a critical incident

May 2022

Vehicle Technology

What happens to the occupants in the event of a road accident depends in no small measure on the question of how well the respective seating position is adapted to the individual's physique, regardless of the passive, active, or integrated safety systems installed. This is because the interaction of the seat, the seatbelt, and the airbag as a whole system can only protect a person as well as possible when the seating position is playing its part. If it is more as though you are lying rather than sitting at the wheel, the seat belt cannot hold you in the event of an emergency stop or an accident. If the front passenger seat is pushed back too far, you cannot realistically expect the airbag to have a protective effect.

Tips for correct driver and passenger seat adjustment

Recent crash tests by DEKRA have convincingly shown the impact that the individual adjustment of the seating position to the person’s physique has on the accident consequences. Three identical vehicles were crashed in three tests, each with three differently sized dummies: the socalled 50th-percentile male with a height of 175 centimeters and a weight of 78 kilograms, the 5th percentile female (154 centimeters, 52 kilograms) and a prototype from the manufacturer Humanetics. This Elderly Dummy (161 centimeters, 73 kilograms) represents an elderly woman with its altered distribution of body mass. In each of the three tests, the three dummies sat alternately on the driver's side, the passenger side, and the back seat. The driver's seat was individually adjusted so that the pedals and steering wheel could be reached easily. The passenger seat, on the other hand, remained in a middle position in all three tests. DEKRA Accident Research had previously determined this to be the most frequently selected setting in passenger cars based on its own survey of real-life cars and an assessment of accident data.

DEKRA crash tests
DEKRA crash tests, including those conducted with the Elderly Dummy prototype, have shown again how important the correct seating position is for passengers

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The crash tests revealed considerable differences in accident consequences, especially in the passenger seat. With the middle seat position, the restraint system only exhibited a good interaction for the 50th-percentile male. For the 5th-percentile female, the correct seating position, which would provide the best protection from the seatbelt and the airbag, should be both higher up and much further forward. In the case of the Elderly Dummy, the body’s lower center of gravity led to a greater penetration of the dummy into the seat surface, causing it to dip under the lap belt on impact.

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