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Seat belts increase injury, says study

01 Feb 2006

'THERE IS no overall net safety benefit associated with the fitting of two-point passenger restraints to trains. Two-point passenger restraints should therefore not be fitted to rail vehicles', concludes research by Britain's Rail Safety & Standards Board.

The study found that injuries would be worsened if passengers in a collision were restrained by lap belts, concluding that 'using crashworthy seat design to constrain passengers offers better overall protection than installing two-point restraints.'

AEA Technology Rail carried out computer modelling of accidents using Madymo software, verified in full-scale sled trials using crash test dummies at the Transport Research Laboratory. Comparison of lap belts and crashworthy seat designs found that restrained passengers would be more vulnerable to serious or fatal injury from the loss of survival space as vehicles underwent structural damage. Reviews of past accidents suggested that for every life which may have been saved by a lap belt preventing passengers being ejected from vehicles, several lives would have been lost in major structural collapse.

Details of the work are available at www.rssb.co.uk, and further research is now being undertaken into the use of three-point belts.

Investigations into recent accidents have highlighted the need to contain passengers within a vehicle during the dynamic phase of an accident. They also showed that it is important to provide easy emergency egress as well as access for rescue teams.

RSSB looked at the role of glazing integrity, and found that 'fitting glass to an optimised specification where window replacement is justified will bring additional safety advantages', according to Aidan Nelson, Director of Policy & Strategic Initiatives. Window standards are now being developed, and the use of emergency hammers is being reviewed.