Impact protection

Impact protection  - Overview - Volvo S40

The two front airbags are 'intelligent' and deploy in two stages according to the severity of the accident, alleviating the risk of facial injuries caused by the occupants' faces impacting with the airbag.

The airbags are complemented by three-point safety belts with tensioners, which are fitted for all five occupants. The tensioners activate within a few thousandths of a second in the event of a collision and tighten the belt for maximum protection. The front seat safety belts then release a little so that the driver and passenger are cushioned by the airbags in a controlled manner. A seat belt reminder system is fitted for both front and rear seats - the front alerts the driver with an audio signal, while the system for the rear seats informs the driver via a message on the instrument panel.

The Volvo S40's side impact protection is no less impressive. The current Volvo S40 is 50mm wider than the original, which liberates extra space for deformation in the event of a collision. The dynamics of the SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) are shared with the larger Volvo S80. A large part of the force of a collision that would otherwise penetrate through the side of the car is dissipated by SIPS via beams, pillars, the floor, the roof and other parts of the car body.

The side impact airbags play an important role in protecting the chests of the occupants. They are fitted in the outer edge of the front seats, not in the door, which ensures that they're always securely positioned next to the occupant's side, whatever the position or angle of the seat. They are also larger than they were in the original Volvo S40 to provide more effective hip and chest protection.

Further protection is provided by the IC (Inflatable Curtain) airbag, which sits in the headlining and protects both front and rear occupants. In the event of a side impact, the Curtain inflates in a few thousandths of a second and then remains inflated for about three seconds in order to provide maximum protection throughout complex collision sequences.

Should any of the airbags be deployed, the hazard lights will automatically be activated - a feature that helps attract the attention of other motorists in the event of a single-vehicle accident in the dark.

WHIPS

All Volvo cars tested by the International Insurance Whiplash Prevention Group (IIWPG), which includes the UK's Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre in Thatcham, were placed in the best class of their '2005 Dynamic Seat Assessments'. Volvo Car Corporation was the only manufacturer to achieve this result.

"We are very pleased that the Volvo seats have performed in line with our expectations," says Thomas Broberg, Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "Tests only show a part of what happens in real life. However, this is one of several results that confirm Volvo has the right approach to help reduce neck injuries in rear impacts."

The Volvo S80 showcased WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System) to help prevent neck and back injuries in a rear impact, and this system is now fitted across the Volvo range. WHIPS reduces acceleration forces on the neck during a rear-end accident by about a half. In the event of an accident, the entire backrest moves rearwards to reduce the strain on the occupant's back and neck. Then, when their back has been safely restrained by the backrest, it inclines backwards in order to reduce the force that would otherwise throw their head forwards.

The WHIPS front seats have been made deliberately robust so that they can withstand high loads from items such as unsecured luggage, but they are also capable of yielding in the event of a severe crash, when strength and flexibility are both required. "Our seats are far sturdier than those usually found in the compact segment," says Broberg.

Volvo's traffic accident research team compared real-life whiplash injuries from Volvos with and without WHIPS, and the results point to a clear conclusion: WHIPS reduced short-term and long-term (of more than a year) injuries by 33 per cent and 54 per cent respectively, while whiplash injuries in women were reduced by as much as 50 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively.

All Volvo car head restraints were placed in the highest category in the 'New Car Whiplash Rating' published by the Thatcham Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre. Static tests were carried out to measure the design and position of head restraints in 500 car models.

"We are very proud of coming out so well," says Volvo Car Corporation's safety engineer and whiplash specialist, Lotta Jakobsson. "Volvo has long understood how important head restraints are, and led the industry in introducing them.

"However, static evaluations of head restraints only show a part of what happens in real-life accidents. That is why Volvo has invested over a decade's research into crash-testing and analysis of real accidents, and introduced its Whiplash Protection System - 'WHIPS'."

In October 2002, the United States Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) compared car seats with and without whiplash protection, and achieved an average injury reduction of 49 per cent.

Like Volvo, the Swedish insurance company, Folksam, also compared real-life accidents, and showed that WHIPS seats reduced whiplash injury by 40 per cent. In 2003, Folksam crash-tested seats from a number of different manufacturers' cars, and Volvo seats were considered the best. An overall whiplash injury reduction in the region of 50 per cent was thought possible, if all cars had seats as good as Volvo's.

BLIS

To aid driver safety Volvo has developed BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), the first system of its kind to be introduced to help avoid the risks of accidents caused by blind spots.

BLIS uses an intelligent digital camera system incorporated into both door mirrors to constantly monitor the area alongside the car for other vehicles or motorbikes and, if it detects any, alerts the driver via an orange light housed in the car's A-pillar by the door mirror.

Pedestrian safety

The Volvo S40 has been designed to minimise the risk of injury to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of an accident. The smoothly shaped front has an energy-absorbing structure ahead of the bumper which serves to reduce the risk of leg injuries. The bonnet and front wings have also been designed to absorb collision energy and the petrol-engined models have a generous amount of free space between the top of the cylinder head and the bonnet, which reduces the risk of pedestrian head injuries.

Child safety

A passenger airbag cut-off switch is available to enable a child seat to be carried in the front of the car, while, in the rear, Volvo has also paid special attention to child safety with the option of an integrated booster cushion built into the rear centre armrest designed for children aged between 4 and 10.

In addition, two integrated booster cushions are available for the rear seats as part of an optional 'Family Pack'.

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