Objective: Restraint performance is evaluated using anthropomorphic test devices (ATDs) positioned in prescribed, optimal seating positions. Anecdotally, humans-children in particular-assume a variety of positions that may affect restraint performance. Naturalistic driving studies (NDSs), where cameras and other data acquisition systems are placed in a vehicle used by participants during their regular transportation, offer means to collect these data. To date, these studies have used conventional video and analysis methods and, thus, analyses have largely been qualitative. This article describes a recently completed NDS of child occupants in which their position was monitored using a Kinect sensor to quantify their head position throughout normal, everyday driving trips.
Methods: A study vehicle was instrumented with a data acquisition system to measure vehicle dynamics, a set of video cameras, and a Kinect sensor providing 3D motion capture at 1 Hz of the rear seat occupants. Participant families used the vehicle for all driving trips over 2 weeks. The child occupants' head position was manually identified via custom software from each Kinect color image. The 3D head position was then extracted and its distribution summarized by seat position (left, rear, center) and restraint type (forward-facing child restraint system [FFCRS], booster seat, seat belt).
Results: Data from 18 families (37 child occupants) resulted in 582 trips (with children) for analysis. The average age of the child occupants was 45.6 months and 51% were male. Twenty-five child occupants were restrained in FFCRS, 9 in booster seats, and 3 in seat belts. As restraint type moved from more to less restraint (FFCRS to booster seat to seat belt), the range of fore-aft head position increased: 218, 244, and 340 mm on average, respectively. This observation was also true for left-right movement for every seat position. In general, those in the center seat position demonstrated a smaller range of head positions.
Conclusions: For the first time in a naturalistic setting, the range of head positions for child occupants was quantified. More variability was observed for those restrained in booster seats and seat belts than for those in FFCRS. The role of activities, in particular interactions with electronic devices, on head position was notable; this will be the subject of further analysis in other components of the broader study. These data can lead to solutions for optimal protection for occupants who assume positions that differ from prescribed, optimal testing positions.
Keywords: Child restraint; child occupants; head injury; head position; naturalistic driving study.