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Better side impact regulations by 2017

Poles apart: Australia has led the way for the introduction of new side impact protection regulations, adopted by the United Nations.

New UN/ADR rule was proposed and driven by Australia

18 Dec 2015

A NEW United Nations regulation on pole side impact protection has been adopted after a five-year campaign by the Australian government, supported by two leading local automotive bodies.

Australia will be the first country to adopt the new regulation. Pole side impact crashes typically occur when a vehicle slides off the road and hits a pole or tree broadside.

The new Global Technical Regulation 14 was incorporated into the Australian Design Rules this week. It will come into force in Australia in November 2017 for light cars and a year later for light-commercial vehicles.

The new UN regulation was proposed and championed through the UN process by Australia’s department of infrastructure, with support and funding for research by two local bodies – the Australian Automobile Association, the peak body for the State motoring clubs, and the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash testing agency.

Both played significant roles in establishing the case for improved pole side impact protection. Specific data about pole side impact crashes is hard to find.

Every year more than 1000 people die on Australian roads while a further 30,000 are seriously injured.

MUARC data shows 20 per cent of all road fatalities in 2009 occurred in side impact crashes and half of those were from pole side impact crashes.

The rate of serious injury is higher in side impact crashes, with 1700 people being injured this way in 2009.

Another study showed that the fitting of combination side airbags, head and thorax, reduced the incidence of injury and death in side impact crashes by at least 51 per cent.

There are no studies into the effect of strengthening the crash structures in the sides of vehicles.

“Australia should be proud of its international leadership to develop this global regulation which will improve occupant protection in side impact crashes such as hitting a tree at the side of the road,” said ANCAP chief executive James Goodwin.

He said the higher safety standard of the new rule would “go a long way” to helping save hundreds of lives.

“Some years ago it was identified that Australia had more vehicle run-offs from the road and vehicles hitting things on the side of the road,” Mr Goodwin said.

“So it was felt that let’s make sure there is a global design rule for this.”

Since the start of the campaign to have stronger side crash regulations adopted by the UN, it has been supported by ministers from both sides of politics: Anthony Albanese (Labor), Catherine King (Labor), Jamie Briggs (Liberal) and the current minister for major projects, territories and local government Paul Fletcher (Liberal).

“The UN ECE global technical regulation committees were taking advice on this issue,” Mr Goodwin said.

“It appears that the department of infrastructure took a lead role in getting together research and analysis of this and I believe we were on the committees to get it going.”

Mr Goodwin said ANCAP also had played a role in helping the new regulation get up by including a pole side impact test in its crash assessments since 2003.

“ANCAP has required vehicles to undergo a pole side impact test since 2003 in order to be eligible for a five-star safety rating, which has led to a significant increase in the fitment of curtain airbags, providing substantial reductions in injury in side impacts.”

AAA chief executive Michael Bradley applauded the federal government’s role in leading the development of the new regulation.

“Side impact crashes are a significant cause of road trauma in Australia and the AAA commends the Australian government and the minister for major projects, territories and local government Paul Fletcher on this important road user safety initiative.

“Improving the safety of Australia’s car fleet is a critical component of Australia’s current national road safety strategy and it is very pleasing to see this action being implemented,” Mr Bradley said.

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