Volvo Cars new booster seat helps protect children who have outgrown their toddler seat. In combination with an extended Inflatable Curtain and new, stronger side body structure, and load limiting seat belts this world's first two-step integrated booster cushion recently received international acknowledgement as a unique engineering solution to give children a safe and comfortable travel experience.

At this year's World Traffic Safety Symposium, a panel of judges from Dept. of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Automobile Association of America Foundation for Traffic Safety, National Road Safety Foundation, and New York Police Department Traffic Safety Division awarded Volvo first prize in the Automotive Manufacturer category for this innovative safety feature. The award stands among three other safety acknowledgements: Public Service, Media Activity and Aftermarket Product Design. "Our goal is to help protect occupants. This award acknowledges our efforts to help protect our smallest passengers, our children," commented Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Advisor, Volvo Car Corporation, Sweden. "This new seat, in conjunction with our refinements in side body structure and the inflatable curtain will have a significant reduction in child injuries."

Safety Potential Prediction

Seat belt positioning for children of different heights is important for better placement and protection. Several studies have shown that proper positioning with the use of a booster cushion helps reduce abdominal injuries caused by the child slipping under the seat belt. Field data in several studies supports these findings and emphasizes the importance of booster seats, and that the booster be designed to hold the belt firmly across the pelvis or thighs during a frontal impact. The overall effectiveness (Measured Abbreviated Injury Scale 2+) of booster seats is estimated as 31 percent as compared to using only a seat belt and as high as 75 percent as compared to no restraint at all. Getting all children of appropriate age and size to use booster cushion offers a potentially significant safety benefit.

Booster Cushion Usage

For children using a booster cushion different types of misuse varies depending on which study is analyzed, but the share is significant. According to a study carried out by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 2004), 39.5 percent of the 664 children inspected in belt-positioning booster cushion were considered as critical misuse. The most common occurring misuse was improper fitment of the shoulder belt followed by loose belt, improper fit of the lap belt and inappropriate age/fit. In Germany, the misuse rate was reported to be 46.8 percent. A Spanish study identified that nearly 50 percent of the children aged 6 to 12 restrained with a child restraint had some type of misuse, the most common being the seat belt placed behind the child.

Children's Attitudes Toward Booster Cushion

A questionnaire-based study(1) on 4 to 11 year old Australian children reported that one of the reasons for moving the child from a booster to the adult seat belt only (69 percent) was primarily that the child was too big for the booster. Another major reason was the child disliked sitting in a booster and would be more comfortable using only the seat belt and, not surprisingly, the child thought they were too 'grown-up' for a booster cushion. The study concluded that the design of booster cushions should have the capacity to seat larger children as well as being more appealing to children. By offering the integrated two-stage booster cushions, Volvo believes the level of acceptance will increase among this age group.

Combined Safety System

"We took into account the child's physical size and weight, seat belt misuse, child physiology, along with redesigning our vehicle side body structure and side impact inflatable curtain to come up with this new integrated two-step booster seat," noted Broberg. "There will be better fitment of our three-point seat belt, a wider age and weight range, and better attitude for the child who can now easily see outside with the added benefit of reducing driver distraction. Hopefully we will hear less often: 'Are we there yet?'"

Vehicle Option

This new child safety feature will be available this fall in the all-new 2008 XC70 crossover wagon, followed in February 2008 in the all-new 2008 V70. The single option includes two rear-seat mounted integrated booster seats and two pyrotechnically pretensioned seat belts with new load limiters to accommodate children using this booster cushion and normally positioned adults. Both seats fold flat to expand the cargo compartment and are indistinguishable from rear seats without this option.