Side Impact Collisions and the Air Protect Technology

September 12-19 marks Child Passenger Safety week here in the US. It’s intended to educate parents on the importance of making sure that car seats are properly installed and that kids are buckled in appropriately. It’s also a good time to remind tweens and teens to buckle up and drive safely. Conveniently for me, it’s also the perfect moment to share an overdue overview and review of a car seat I’ve been working on. This is the overview. I’ll post the review separately.

When I was approached by 360PR to check out a car seat designed to minimize the damages from side impact collisions, I have to admit that I hadn’t much thought about the technology behind our car seats. We had chosen them based on reviews, our budget and their ability to hold a child who is bigger than the average car seat passenger (Bug is in the 95% for height and weight). I took some time to research side impact collisions and learned that although they they cause one third of the deaths for children due to car crashes, the government currently has no requirements for testing car seats in these situations! It’s scary to think that the car seats we rely on to protect our children may not even be tested in relation to a side impact crash.

Fortunately, car seat manufacturers are one step ahead of the game and have been working technology to protect our children in the event of a side impact collision, particularly in the case where a larger (higher) vehicle crashes into a smaller one. One of the studies done involved the Juvenile Design team at Dorel Juvenile Group and the Crash Safety Center at Kettering University. The team developed a new way of modeling a side impact crash called the “intruding door” technique. Their tests show clearly that in a side impact collision, the door of the car is actually pushed into the space normally occupied by the child (see the video below). The results of their research led them to develop a new technology called Air Protect, which is designed to increase the “ride-down,” or time it takes for the child’s head to come to a complete stop, in a crash.

The extra protection in Air Protect comes in the form of sophisticated air cushions on either side of the child’s head. The cushions are made of a special foam (which has been tested in a variety of extreme conditions to ensure it will hold up) that allows air to pass through. In a collision situation, the other car hits the child’s door, which then pushes into the car seat. The car seat then slams into the child, often causing severe head injury. According to the researchers behind Air Protect, the cushions in the product absorb enough of this force that the child’s head is able to come to a slower and safer stop.

While researching the Air Protect, I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Amirault, Director of Design and Engineering at Dorel Juvenile Group, who was lead engineer on the project. Dave has two kids of his own, so he is keenly aware of how important car safety is for parents. Dave spoke about the new Air Protect Technology with enthusiasm, saying, “It is a technology that we believe whole heartedly in… it’s thrilling… we work very hard and we want to make sure we make great product, and we do. And then to have something like this come along. I’ve been in the industry 9 years and this is… the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of. Yeah, a lot of heart and soul into it.”

As a technology writer and a blogger, I enjoy a lot of opportunities to speak with the people behind the scenes who have developed the products we use every day. It’s refreshing, as a consumer, to see the excitement and passion they have about the products and know that the bottom-line isn’t the only driving force. With that in mind, I asked Dave about his motivation to move into the juvenile design industry as I noted that it took place right about the time his son was born. Dave admitted that the shift in his work at that time was not a coincidence.  “I was living and breathing the product and use,” he told me. “It’s kind of the going story with a lot of us in the juvenile industry. Once it gets in your blood, you’re really into it because you know it’s making a difference. It’s improving lives and saving lives. It’s just rewarding.” That’s the type of sentiment that makes me feel just a bit more comfortable when I strap LadyBug into her new car seat!

Read my review of the Complete Air Car Seat!

Visit the official Air Protect website.

Disclaimer: I received a Complete Air Car Seat for review with no promise of positive feedback. The content of this article represents my own opinion, as well as data from outside sources. I make no scientific claims about the product and its ability to keep a child safe in a collision.

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