Title:
Protective helmet for children in automobiles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A children's protective helmet for use by children riding in automobiles, includes an impact absorbing structure having a soft outer wall surface which a child may wear while in an automobile to diminish the amount of force applied to the head of the child when an impact force is applied to the impact absorbing structure of the protective helmet.



Inventors:
Fleming, Michael P. (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/167626
Publication Date:
01/05/2006
Filing Date:
06/27/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/423
International Classes:
A42B3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SUTTON, ANDREW W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Bracewell LLP (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A protective helmet adapted to be worn by a child upon the head of the child while the child is inside an automobile containing air, and adapted to protect the child's head from an impact force, comprising: an impact absorbing structure having a soft outer surface, adapted to cover at least a portion of the head of the child and adapted to receive the impact force, wherein the impact absorbing structure diminishes the amount of force applied to the head of the child when the impact force is applied to the impact absorbing structure of the protective helmet; and at least one aperture passing through the impact absorbing structure, wherein the air is in fluid communication with the head of the child though the at least one aperture.

2. The protective helmet of claim 1, wherein the impact absorbing structure includes: an inner impact absorbing structure having an outer surface, and an inner surface adapted to cover at least a portion of the head of the child, and the inner impact absorbing structure diminishes the amount of force applied to the head of the child when the impact force is applied to the protective helmet; an outer impact absorbing structure having a soft outer surface adapted to receive the impact force, wherein the outer impact absorbing structure substantially surrounds the outer surface of the inner impact absorbing structure, and the outer impact absorbing structure diminishes the amount of force applied to the head of the child when the impact force is applied to the outer impact absorbing structure of the protective helmet; and the at least one aperture passes through the inner impact absorbing structure and the outer impact absorbing structure.

3. The protective helmet of claim 2, wherein a reinforcement is disposed between the inner and outer impact absorbing structures.

4. The protective helmet of claim 2, wherein the inner and outer impact absorbing structure are formed integral with each other.

5. The protective helmet of claim 1, wherein the impact absorbing structure, includes a lower band member having a front and a back portion, and side portions, and the lower band member fits circumferentially around the head of the child.

6. The protective helmet of claim 5, wherein at least one strap member is attached to the lower band member and the at least one strap member extends over at least a portion of the child's head.

7. The protective helmet of clan 6, wherein the at least one strap member includes: at least one crown strap disposed between the front portion of the lower band member and the back portion of the lower band member, the at least one crown strap extending over the top of the child's head.

8. The protective helmet of claim 6, wherein the at least one strap member includes at least two straps, each lateral strap being disposed between a side portion of the lower band member and the at least one crown strap.

9. The protective helmet of claim 5, wherein each side portion of the lower band member has an ear cover which extends below the lower band member and is adapted to cover an ear of the child.

10. The protective helmet of claim 9, wherein at least one ear cover contains an audio device.

11. The protective helmet of claim 5, wherein a side and rear neck flap extends downwardly from the back and side portion of the lower band member.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit and priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/584,544, filed Jul. 1, 2004.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to protective helmets for children in automobiles, and relates more particularly to helmets having an impact absorbing structure and having apertures for ventilation to a portion of the head of the child.

2. Description of the Related Art

The most common injury caused by motor vehicle collisions is an injury to the head. Automobile crashes account for between forty and fifty percent of all head injuries, and these crashes are also often the cause of the most severe injuries. It has been reported that sixty-four percent of all significant injuries sustained by children in an automobile crash are to the head. Infants and small children often sustain head injury while restrained in a car seat during motor vehicle crashes. Skull fracture and/or brain injuries can occur as a result of an impact collision between the child's head and the interior parts of an automobile. It is further recognized that air bags have not solved the problem of child safety in automobiles, and such skull fracture and/or brain injuries remain a significant risk for a child in an automobile.

Thus, a significant number of children suffer head injuries as a result of automobile accidents each year. Indeed, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and acquired disability in children all over the world. Previously, there has been no device for protecting a child's head inside an automobile. It should be noted, however, that no protective helmet can fully guarantee the prevention of injury to the head of a child, because the nature and circumstances of the forcible impact have a significant influence on the extent of injury to the head regardless of the protective mechanism. Nevertheless, a protective helmet for children in automobiles would be desirable in order to decrease the likelihood and the extent of injury to the head of a child in an automobile.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The protective helmet for children in automobiles of the present invention provides considerable advantages, most specifically attempts to decrease the likelihood and the extent of injury to the head of a child in an automobile. The present invention also offers the advantage of providing the child a high degree of comfort associated with ventilation provided to the child's head through apertures, as well as through the gentle character of the inner impact absorbing structure surrounding the head of the child.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING

In the drawing:

FIG. 1 is a side, perspective view of a protective helmet in accordance with the invention, being worn by a child;

FIG. 2 is a top view of the protective helmet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view, taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1, of several layers which may be included within the impact absorbing structure of the protective helmet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a partial, expanded side view of another embodiment of the protective helmet of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 5 is a partial side view of a portion of another embodiment of the protective helmet of FIG. 1.

While the invention will be described in connection with the preferred embodiment, it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to that embodiment. On the contrary, it is intended to cover all alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION AND SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS

Although the following detailed description contains many specific details for purposes of illustration, anyone of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that many variations and alterations to the following details are within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the exemplary embodiment of the invention described below is set forth without any loss of generality to, and without imposing limitations upon, the claimed invention.

The protective helmet 10 of FIG. 1 of the present invention is a safety device that is preferably used by child passengers in automobiles. The protective helmet 10 should be worn upon the head 15 of a child so that the protective helmet 10 diminishes the amount of force applied to the head 15 of the child when an impact force is applied to the protective helmet 10. The helmet 10 is designed for use by children ages approximately 6 months to 14 years old, but also may be used by older children. The helmet 10 is designed for children to use in automobiles, which may include cars, trucks, vans, mobile homes, or other vehicles having at least four wheels.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, helmet 10 has a lower band, or lower band member, 20 which fits circumferentially around the head 15 of the child. The lower band 20 is preferably fitted in a position approximately just above the eyes of the child and approximately just above the ears of the child so that the child may maintain proper vision and hearing while wearing the protective helmet 10 in an automobile (not shown). The front portion, or front side, 11 of the protective helmet 10 is positioned approximately just above the eyes of the child, and the back portion, or back side, 12 of the protective helmet 10 is secured around the backside of the child's head 15.

A crown portion, or member, or strap, 35 is attached to, or disposed between, the front portion, or side, 21 and back portion, or side, 22 of the lower band 20. The crown portion, or strap, 35 offers protection for the upper, middle part of the head extending from a position just above the child's eyes to a position at the back of the child's head 15. The protective helmet 10 preferably includes one longitudinal portion, or strap, 35, but alternatively may have several longitudinal portions. or straps, 35 extending from the front portion 21 of the lower band 20 to the back portion 22 of the lower band 20.

To each side, or edge, 36 of the longitudinal portion, or strap, 35, a plurality of lateral portions, or members, or straps 25, 30 are attached to, or disposed between, the longitudinal strap 35 and a side portion 23 of the lower band 20 at a position on the lower band 20 approximately just above the ears of the child. The front lateral strap 25 is attached to the longitudinal strap 35 and the lower band 20 toward the front side 11 of the protective helmet 10. The back lateral strap 30 is attached to the longitudinal strap 35 and the lower band 20 toward the back side 12 of the protective helmet 10. The lateral portions 25, 30 may be separate parts glued or heat sealed to the longitudinal strap 35 and lower band 20, or may alternatively be formed integrally with longitudinal band 35 and lower band 20. The protective helmet 10 could include as few as two lateral portions 25 and 30, but alternatively may have more than two lateral straps, such as straps 30, 25, and 32 to provide additional protection to the child, or it may have only one lateral portion, or strap, 32 which would be disposed intermediate the front and back sides 11, 12 of the helmet 10.

Several apertures, or openings, 45 pass through those portions of the protective helmet 10 located directly above the head 15 of the child to provide ventilation to the head 15 of the child. The apertures 45 may be located in between each of the straps 25, 30, 32, 35 above the lower band 20. The apertures 45 allow air inside the automobile access to the head 15 of the child. The size of the apertures 45 is dependent upon the relative width “W” (FIG. 1) of the lower band 20 and the relative width “W′” (FIG. 2) of the straps 25, 30, 32, 35 of the helmet 10. That is, the greater the width W of the lower band 20 and the greater the width W′ of the straps 25, 30, 32, 35, the smaller the space remaining for apertures 45. Therefore, the width W of the lower band 20, and the width W′ of the longitudinal portion, or strap, 35 and the lateral portions, or straps, 25, 30, 32, are selected to optimize the comfort or ventilation provided by the apertures 45 for allowing air to access the child's head 15, while also optimizing the safety provided by the protective helmet 10. Alternatively, apertures 45 could be provided by forming openings, or apertures, in the straps 25, 32, 30, 35 themselves. Alternatively, the top of the helmet 10 located above lower band 20 may be formed of a single piece of material, such as those which will be hereinafter described, which covers the top of the child's head 15. The straps 25, 32, 30, and 35 merge into a single sheet, or wall, of material having a generally semi-spherical configuration corresponding to the top of the child's head 15 disposed above lower band 20. Apertures 45 may then be formed in the wall to provide the desired ventilation.

In the preferred embodiment, the width W of the lower band 20, and the width W′ of the longitudinal strap 35, and the lateral straps 25, 30 are several inches, for example approximately 1 or 2 inches, thus establishing apertures 45 that allow a sufficient amount of air to access the head 15 of the child. The apertures 45 provide greater comfort for the child, especially when sleeping in the automobile, because of the ventilation provided by the apertures 45, and because the apertures 45 provide for a lightweight protective helmet 10.

With reference to FIG. 3, it is seen that a strap 35, 30, 32, and 25, as well as lower band 20 may be formed of several layers of the same or differing materials. The layered construction shown in FIG. 3 may be used for the lower band 20, the longitudinal strap 35, and the lateral straps 25, 30, 32. FIG. 3 shows for illustrative purposes the construction of longitudinal strap 35. A body, or reinforcement, 55 has lower surface, or layer, or substrate 56, and an outer or upper surface, or layer, or substrate 57, and the body 55 is positioned between an inner or lower impact absorbing structure 50 and an outer or upper impact absorbing structure 60.

An outer surface 51 of the inner impact absorbing structure 50 underlies the inner surface 56 of the body 55, and is attached to the inner surface 56 of the body 55. Similarly, an inner surface 61 of the outer impact absorbing structure 60 substantially surrounds the outer surface 57 of the body 55, and is attached to the outer surface 57 of the body 55. The inner surface 52 of the inner impact absorbing structure 50 substantially covers a portion of the top of the head 15 of the child as seen in FIG. 1. The outer surface 62 of the outer impact absorbing structure 60 receives the strike from the impact force when the impact force is applied to the protective helmet 10. When the impact force strikes the helmet 10, both the inner impact absorbing structure 50 and the outer impact absorbing structure 60 cushion the blow and diminish the amount of force applied to the head 15 of the child when the impact force is applied to the outer surface 62 of the outer impact absorbing structure 60. In one of many possible embodiments of the invention, the body 55, the inner impact absorbing structure 50, and the outer impact absorbing structure 60 are glued or heat sealed together, or are formed integrally. Preferably body 55 is embedded within, and surrounded by layers 50 and 60. Alternatively, the protective helmet 10 may have one single shock absorbing structure 50 or 60 throughout the entire helmet. Alternatively, the helmet 10 may include the lower band 20 having: one layer 50 or 60; two layers, 50 and 60, 50 and 55, or 60 and 55; or three layers 55, 50, and 60. The longitudinal and lateral straps 35, 30, 32, and 25 may have the same structure and configurations as the lower band 20. The thickness “T” (FIG. 2) of lower band 20, as well as the thickness of the straps 35, 25, 32, and 30, may fall within a range of from approximately ¼ to 1½″, dependent upon the material used to construct them. For example, in general, with a denser foam having greater impact absorbing characteristics, a smaller thickness T may be utilized.

The body, or reinforcement, 55 is typically made from an elastomeric material, but otherwise may be made from any material that is firm enough to maintain durability and reliability, but flexible enough to enable the helmet 10 to adjust upon a child's head 15 for comfort, such a thin metallic insert member formed of aluminum or steel. The inner impact absorbing structure 50 and the outer impact absorbing structure 60 may be made from a soft or cushioned material that is capable of diminishing the amount of force applied by a strike to the head 15 from an impact force, and does not have a hard outer surface 62, but rather has a soft, or flexible, outer surface 62, as will be hereinafter described. In this manner, the inner impact absorbing structure 50 and the outer impact absorbing structure 60 are preferably made from an impact absorbing material, such as a latex or polyurethane foam or other similar elastomeric materials, but may also be made from an air pocket structure or a pillow-type material, or any suitable material having the requisite strength, comfort, and impact absorbing characteristics to function in helmet 10. The inner impact absorbing structure 50 and the outer impact absorbing structure 60 serve the purpose of reducing the likelihood of injury to the child's head 15, while providing comfort in the event the child desires to sleep in the automobile Since the outer surface of the impact absorbing structure is not hard, or non-resilient, such as a rigid plastic material, a child bumping against another child in the automobile, will not hurt the other child.

The inner impact absorbing structure 50 and outer impact absorbing structure 60 also tend to prevent injury to other occupants of vehicle, in the event that another occupant of the vehicle happens to collide with the helmet 10 on the head 15 of the child. Additionally, the inner impact absorbing structure 50 and outer impact absorbing structure 60 would also tend to prevent damage to parts inside the vehicle itself, to the extent that a strike by the child's head 15 to part of the vehicle would otherwise result in damage to the vehicle had the child not been wearing the protective helmet 10.

As seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, a pair of ear covers 40 may be provided and each ear cover 40 extends below the lower band 20 to cover an ear of the child. The ear covers 40, if utilized, may assist in securing the protective helmet 10 to the child's head 15. The ear covers 40 may also be formed of a protective material, such as the foams previously described, designed to diminish the amount of force applied to the ear when an impact force is applied in a direction toward that part of the child's head 15. The ear covers 40 may also provide an entertainment function, wherein an ear cover 40, or both ear covers 40, may contain built-in earphones 75 or other audio devices, which may be used in connection with a radio, CD player, VCR player, DVD player, or video games located in the automobile, whether portable in operation or installed within the vehicle. Additionally, the earphones 75 may also be used in connection with cell phones, hand-held game consoles, or laptop computers. It is widely recognized that the use of earphones, or headphones, 75 is growing rapidly, and it is also believed that parents would prefer providing their children with headphones, or earphones, 75 with proper head protection via helmet 10, rather than without any protection at all. Earphones 75 may be wireless earphones, or as shown in phantom lines in FIG. 1, may include a wire 76, for connecting earphone 75 to the desired audio device.

The ear covers 40 may also include a soft padding, or may be made of the previously described foam materials, surrounding the audio device 75 which absorbs any outside interference sound that may come from outside the vehicle or from other passengers within the vehicle. When the outside interference sound is absorbed by the soft padding, the child is better able to hear the sound from the audio device 75 with clarity. Importantly, the soft padding not only dampens the interference of outside sound not emanating from the audio device, but the soft padding also helps diminish the amount of force applied to the ear of the child when dealt a strike by an impact force.

The protective helmet 10, as shown in FIG. 1, may also have connected to its bottom portion a fastener 47, such as a velcro strap or a belt to better secure the protective helmet 10 to the head 15 of the child. In the preferred embodiment, the fastener 47 extends downwardly from the ear covers 40 for wrapping around the chin of the child to secure the protective helmet 10 upon the child's head 15. Alternatively, if no ear covers 40 are provided, fastener 47 may be directly connected to the lower band 20

With reference to FIG. 4, another embodiment of ear flaps 40 is illustrated. If ear flaps 40 are to be provided to helmet 10, the ear flaps may be releasably secured to the lower band 20, as by the use of snaps 80 and/or a conventional hook and loop fastener, such as a Velcro fastener, 81.

With reference to FIG. 5, if it is desired to provide additional protection to the back of the child's head 15, in a direction extending below lower band 20, additional protection may be provided by use of a downwardly extending side and rear neck flap 90. Flap 90 may be formed as a separate member, or may preferably be formed integral with ear flap 40a, and may be secured to the lower band 20 as by the snaps 80 and/or hook and loop fastener 81 previously described. Thus, as shown in FIG. 5, flap 90 incorporates ear flap 40a therein. Flap 90 may be formed of the same protective materials, such as the foams previously described.

The invention seeks not only to provide protection to a child's head while inside an automobile, but also to provide such a benefit in a comfortable and functional manner. In this manner, the invention seeks to optimize the comfort of the device, so that the device is willingly and perhaps eagerly used by children, and regularly utilized by the parents of such children with confidence that their children will be safe and comfortable at the same time. Thus, if desired, ornamental decals, or stickers (not shown), may be provided so that a child may decorate his or her helmet 10, or alternatively a design may be incorporated into the outer surface of the helmet.

While it is the desire and goal that the helmet of the present invention, as well as all helmets, prevent injuries from occurring, it should be noted that due to the nature of automobile accidents and other events which include forcible impacts, no protective equipment or helmet can universally and completely prevent all injuries to the head. To be sure, even while utilizing the helmet of the present invention, the forcible impact associated with an automobile accident or other strike to the head may still result in severe head and/or neck injuries, paralysis, or death to the child wearing the helmet.

In this manner, it should be noted that no protective helmet can fully guarantee the prevention of injury to the head of a child, because the nature and circumstances of the forcible impact have a significant influence on the extent of injury to the head regardless of the protective effectiveness if the protective mechanism. Therefore, this invention does not guarantee safety of any child in an automobile without regard to the circumstances surrounding the accident or injury. To be sure, this invention will not prevent every potential injury to any child who uses the invention. Rather, the benefit of this invention is to decrease the likelihood of an injury to the head of a child in an automobile, and if such an injury should occur, to lessen the extent or degree of such an injury, so that hopefully only a minimal amount of harm is inflicted onto the child. Such safety considerations are matters of extent or degree-not absolutes.

Although the present invention has been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions, and alterations can be made hereupon without departing from the principle and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention should be determined by the following claims and their appropriate legal equivalents.





 
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