New Restraints Could Cushion Crash Impact

Vest and harness system may offer improved protection on road

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FRIDAY, June 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A vest and harness safety system for cars may help protect people with osteoporosis and other brittle bone disorders from suffering serious injuries in crashes.

The safety system, designed by undergraduate engineering students at Johns Hopkins University, greatly reduced impact forces when it was tested using crash test dummies. The students created the system in response to a challenge from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins.

"We estimate that as many as 13 million people with osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disorder) and hemophilia need some additional protection from forces applied to the torso during a car crash," Gary S. Sorock, an associate professor at the center, said in a prepared statement.

"The assignment was to design and test a restraint system that would reduce these forces, protecting the ribs and the sternum in particular," Sorock said.

The system includes a vest with three layers of foam padding to absorb some of the energy that causes chest compression during a crash. This compression can cause broken ribs and other serious internal injuries in people with weakened bones.

In place of the standard three-point seatbelt system, the students used a four-point race care harness. This keeps a person's body tighter against the car seat and distributes crash energy across a wider area of the body.

More information

The National Safety Council offers advice about defensive driving.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, May 2004

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