Injury Related News and Research
TV Programs Score Poorly In Seatbelt/Helmet Use
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The use of seatbelts and helmets by television characters while riding in cars, bicycles or motorcycles is significantly lower than the actual usage of these safety measures by Americans, according to new research from UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham). And the researchers in UAB’s Center for Injury Sciences say the television industry should do better. In findings published in the December issue of Injury Prevention, the team reports that seatbelt use was depicted in 62 percent of individuals in television programs. Actual use by Americans is 80 percent. The prevalence of motorcycle helmet use was 47 percent in television against 60 percent of actual use. Television showed only 9 percent bicycle helmet use as opposed to actual use of 40 percent.“There is no doubt that seatbelt and helmet use reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury from vehicle crashes,” said Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., associate director for research at the Center for Injury Sciences and one of the study authors. “Since Americans watch more than four hours of TV per day, how safety behaviors are depicted on television can have tremendous influence on public perception of seatbelt and helmet use.” McGwin says that television commercials do a much better job of presenting safe behaviors than television programming. Seatbelt use is depicted in 86 percent of individuals in commercials, motorcycle helmet use 100 percent and bike helmet use 84 percent.The researchers examined the 20 most popular TV programs on the four major U.S. television networks over a four-week period in the summer of 2005. These programs are viewed by approximately 15 million individuals, with the top programs seen by 30 million people.“The ability of television programs to influence behavior should not be underestimated,” McGwin said. “We suggest that programmers have a responsibility to promote safe transportation behaviors by the characters in their shows.”McGwin also pointed out that many U.S. television shows are exported to other countries where seatbelt and helmet usage vary widely.Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among Americans under age 40 and the fifth leading cause overall. Motor vehicle injuries account for 42 percent of injury related death. Seatbelt use has been shown to reduce the risk of death by at least 50 percent. Motorcycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 72 percent and risk of death by 29 percent. Bicycle helmets have a similar injury risk reduction. Click Here
U.S. Highway Deaths Increase in 2005
Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Traffic deaths in the United States reached their highest levels since 1990, the government reported Tuesday, fueled by an increase in motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 43,443 people were killed on the highways last year, up 1.4 percent from 42,836 in 2004. It was the highest number of fatalities in a single year since 1990, when 44,599 people were killed.The fatality rate also grew slightly to 1.47 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, an increase from 1.45 in 2004. It was the first increase in the fatality rate since 1986."We have no tolerance for any numbers higher than zero," said Acting Transportation Secretary Maria Cino. "Motorcyclists need to wear their helmets, drivers need to buckle up, and all motorists need to stay sober."The annual report found that motorcycle fatalities rose for the eighth straight year, growing 13 percent since 2004. The government said 4,553 motorcyclists died in 2005, compared with 4,028 in 2004. Nearly half of the people who died were not wearing helmets. Pedestrian deaths increased from 4,675 in 2004 to 4,881 in 2005. NHTSA said it was investigating the increase to try to learn what led to the growth.
Complete internet reference for above summary provided, for your convenience, by UAB-ICRC-SCIB-UTC:
2005 Annual Assessment of Motor Vehicle Crashes Based on The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and The National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS GES) DOT HS 810 639 Released August 22, 2006
Feds want stability control on all cars
The government, impressed by the promise of anti- rollover technology, is expected today to require automakers to include electronic stability control devices on all new vehicles in the coming years. The technology has been hailed by automakers, suppliers and safety advocates for its potential in reducing traffic deaths and rollovers.
"Electronic stability control is the single most important advance in auto safety since the development of the seatbelt," said David Champion, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports. "We are pleased to see NHTSA recognizing the value of this system."
About 40% of new vehicles have it as standard equipment and auto industry officials expect it to be available on all vehicles by 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today unveiled proposed rules for stability control that also will include testing standards for auto manufacturers.
One study found that stability control could lead to a reduction of 10,000 deaths a year if all vehicles had the technology, almost one-quarter of the more than 43,000 people killed on the roads annually.
"These are staggering statistics compared to most safety technologies that are installed on the vehicles today. This technology will save lives," said William Kozyra, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems, North America, a leading supplier of stability control.
Kozyra called it "the most important automotive safety technology of our generation."
How the system works
The crash-avoidance technology compares the direction the car is moving with its intended path and senses when a driver may lose control, automatically applying brakes to individual wheels to help make it stable and avoid a rollover. Many sport-utility vehicles, vans and pickups already have the equipment.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason has said the agency will mandate the equipment, estimating it would save 10,600 lives when fully implemented into the fleet. During a July hearing before Congress, she said it "could be the greatest safety innovation since the safety belt."
Rollovers have had particularly fatal consequences, leading to more than 10,000 deaths a year despite accounting for only about 3% of all crashes. SUVs and other vehicles with high centers of gravity have been susceptible to rollovers.
Automakers have been receptive to the technology and have indicated little resistance in the decision to mandate the equipment because they have already begun to include it on their vehicles, especially on rollover-prone SUVs. Ford and GM had previously announced plans to include the systems on all their vehicles.
Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator and head of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog, called electronic stability control "breakthrough technology" but said it would be difficult to predict how many lives it could save.
Early in the development of the air bag, she said initial studies predicted it could save about 9,000 people a year, much higher than the 2,300 lives it saves annually.
"Until you get it into production and onto vehicles, you don't know how large the numbers are going to be," Claybrook said.
A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this year predicted 10,000 deaths could be prevented a year if passenger vehicles had the technology. The study found stability control reduced the risk of single-vehicle rollovers involving SUVs by 80%.
One of the benefits of stability control is that it doesn't require anything from the driver. While other crash avoidance technologies, such as lane departure warning, require the driver to react, stability control senses the vehicle veering out of control and stabilizes it.
Cyclists wearing helmets 'more likely to be hit'
Cyclists who wear helmets are more likely to be hit by overtaking vehicles, new research has suggested. Buses and trucks were found to be the worst offenders in the experiment. Drivers get more than 3.1in (8cm) closer to cyclists wearing helmets than they do to bare-headed riders and female cyclists are given more room on the road than male riders, according to a survey from the University of Bath.
Dr Ian Walker, a traffic psychologist, used a bicycle fitted with an ultrasonic distance sensor to record data from more than 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol.
He said drivers were twice as likely to get close to his bicycle when he was wearing the helmet.
Dr Walker said: "Drivers think, 'He knows what he's doing, he won't do anything surprising'. But that's really quite a dangerous thought, particularly as so many cycling novices are told to wear helmets."
Dr Walker, whose research is to be published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, was struck twice during the course of the experiment.
To test another theory, Dr Walker wore a long wig to see if there was any difference in passing distance when vehicles thought they were overtaking a female cyclist.
Vehicles gave him an average of 14cm more space when he was wearing the wig.
Dr Walker said this may be because women are seen as less predictable than men on the roads, or because female cyclists are more rare and so are treated with more caution.
More than 11,000 cyclists were injured and 109 killed on UK roads in 2004, the latest year for which figures are available.
The research comes as Labour considers plans to make bells compulsory on all bicycles. Cyclists would face on-the-spot penalties and even two years in jail if they did not warn pedestrians of their approach.
The Detroit News
In rear-impact crashes, weak seatbacks can fail, sending their occupants flying backward. In NHTSA tests of high-speed crashes, seats frequently failed.
Better science can improve dated designs
Technical issues delay new standards
By Jeff Plungis / Detroit News Washington Bureau
© Copyright 2002 The Detroit News
WASHINGTON — Anitra Fuller, a 38-year-old social worker, was on her way to work at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh , N.C. , on a rainy morning in 1997.
She was driving a Jeep Wrangler, which she had bought partly because of its rugged appearance. “They look safe,” Fuller said later in a court deposition. Fuller was wearing a seat belt, but that didn’t protect her when her Jeep was rear-ended. The seatback collapsed, and the force of the crash ejected Fuller through the back window.
The next thing she recalls is waking up in an intensive-care unit. She couldn’t feel her legs, so she asked her brother if they had been cut off. He told her she had hit her head and suffered a spinal cord injury. She would never again be able to feel her legs.
Fuller had been a successful professional studying for a doctorate. Now she is a paraplegic, unemployed and dependent on her mother. Fuller’s Jeep met the NHTSA safety standard for seatback strength established in 1971, based on a 1963 recommendation by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It requires a seat to withstand 200 to 300 pounds of force.
In a typical rear-impact crash, seats are subjected to forces four or five times that, according to Kenneth Saczalski, an engineering consultant who specializes in seat design. Saczalski said he is seeing more cases of children being injured and even killed when front seats go flat in rear-impact crashes and hit them. Children are being placed in the back seat because of the dangers of front-seat air bags. Seatbacks regularly fail during NHTSA’s 30-mph rear-impact crash tests to evaluate fuel-tank integrity.
In 1974, NHTSA announced a plan to upgrade the seat standard. In 1979, the effort was abandoned in the face of auto industry opposition. In 1980, NHTSA wrote to manufacturers, noting a disturbing pattern of seat failures in its new-car tests. But the issue faded into the background. Diane Steed, who was NHTSA administrator for most of the Reagan years, said she doesn’t recall seat strength ever coming up in a discussion of things the agency should be doing.
In 1989, Saczalski petitioned NHTSA to increase the seatback standard 17-fold, arguing that such a standard was achievable using state-of-the-art materials and designs. NHTSA granted Saczalski’s petition, saying his proposal that seatbacks be stiffened “warranted further consideration.” The agency asked for comments from the auto industry and other interested parties. It received a flurry of negative responses from automakers. General Motors Corp.wrote that stiffening vehicle seats would “significantly increase costs and mass.” The agency backed off rulemaking and launched more research.
In 1992, NHTSA concluded that improving seating systems was more complex than simply increasing seatback strength. Seats had to be better integrated with head restraints and seat belts for the best results. It said it would undertake more research instead of proposing a new standard. A proposed new standard is expected this year. “There are some tremendous technical issues to resolve,” said NHTSA spokesman Tim Hurd. “If it were easy, it would have been done by now.”
In a 1994 internal GM study, David C. Viano of GM’s Automotive Safety and Health Research Department estimated that better seatback designs across the entire U.S. fleet could save more than 400 lives a year. He also estimated the improvements would prevent 1,000 serious injuries each year. GM subsequently strengthened its seatbacks. Robert Lange, GM’s executive director for structure and safety integration, said the additional research changed the company’s mind. “We are always willing to look at new science. Additional data can change our points of view about things,” he said.
Most automakers already exceed the federal seatback strength requirement. In a trial last year involving a Ford Explorer, Philip Majka, a consultant hired by Ford, testified that most Ford seats are two to three times stiffer than the federal requirement. In responding to the Saczalski petition in 1989, Mercedes-Benz wrote that its seats were designed to remain upright in NHTSA’s much-tougher 30 mph fuel-tank crash test. Many automakers objected to the stiffness suggested by Saczalski in 1989. They argued that too strong a seatback could actually injure people. The potential for whiplash for a person out of position would be especially great — a body bending backward as it travels over a stiff seat. Collapsing seats also absorb some energy in a crash.
One possibility is a seat that doesn’t collapse yet has more energy-absorbing materials. NHTSA has contracted with the University of Virginia to develop a prototype. “We know a lot more now than we did when we wrote that standard,” said Ron Huston, an engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati who specializes in crash dynamics. Huston added that manufacturers in certain cases designed weaker seats after the government rule went into effect in 1968. A new regulation is on NHTSA’s agenda for this year.
• Vehicle Seatback Safety (.pdf)
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