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Pole Side Impact
Accident patterns vary from country to country within Europe, but approximately a quarter of all serious-to-fatal injuries happen in side impact collisions. Many of these injuries occur when one car runs into the side of another or into a fixed narrow object such as a tree or pole.
To encourage manufacturers to fit head protection devices, pole test may be performed, where such safety features are fitted. Side impact head or curtain airbags help to protect the head and upper torso by providing a padding effect and by preventing the head from passing through the window opening. In the test, the car tested is propelled sideways at 29kph (18mph) into a rigid pole. The pole is relatively narrow, so there is major penetration into the side of the car.
In an impact without the head protecting airbag, a driver's head could hit the pole with sufficient force to cause a fatal head injury.
Typically a head injury criterion of 5000 is possible, five times that which indicates the likelihood of serious brain injury. In contrast, the head injury criterion in these new crash tests with a head protection airbag is around 100 to 300, well below the injury reference value. A side impact airbag with head protection makes this kind of crash survivable despite the severity.
Before 2009, Euro NCAP has allowed the manufacturer to perform a pole test to demonstrate the efficacy of the head protection system where this safety feature is fitted. The assessment focussed on the head only and the result was used to augment the side impact score achieved in the MDB side impact test. As of 2009, the pole test has become mandatory and now includes assessments on other critical body regions that might be affected such as chest and abdomen.