Every year in the US, about 8,000 fatalities occur in side impacts, and about 10,000 fatalities occur in rollovers. Review of the history and technology illuminates why some vehicles are unsafely designed and lacking in their crashworthiness, and describes safer alternative designs that can reduce the causation of injury. Safer designs can help maintain the passengers' "survival space", perimeter frame integration, pre-tensioner seatbelts and side airbags, interior padding, glass-plastic laminated glazing, box-section reinforced roof members, and upgrades to FMVSS 214 and 216. Published in proceedings of the 16th International ESV Conference, Canada, 1998.
Truck underride occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into and penetrates beneath a large truck or trailer, ripping into the passenger compartment "survival space" and often decapitating the occupants. An overview of the history and technology of truck underride shows long delays and only minimal devices were implemented. It also explains why the current Federal Safety Standard for truck rear underride guards is inadequate, and why the side underride hazard urgently needs to be resolved. Published and presented at the 16th International ESV Conference, in Canada, 1998.
It is imperative to rigorously examine how and why specific vehicle accidents occurred, any lack of safety and crashworthiness, and safer alternative designs that would have prevented the tragedy. Examples include some airbags that have needlessly killed children, and the Kentucky school bus accident in which 24 children and three adults burned to death because of an unprotected fuel tank and lack of emergency exits. Presented at 10th Annual World Traffic Safety Symposium, in New York, April 2000.
Soon after the 2002 Toyota Camry was launched, with its new Electronic Throttle Control system, problems of strange acceleration began to appear, and Toyota issued bulletins to re-calibrate the Electronic Control Module, a computer software issue. This was a first alert. As more runaway acceleration accidents occurred, this became a major auto safety story, focusing attention on sticky accelerator pedals, safety defects, and problems at NHTSA. What can be learned from this saga to ensure safer vehicles in the future? Vision Zero International magazine - June 2010
With about 10,000 fatalities in rollover accidents each year in the U.S., it is imperative that automakers and NHTSA focus on critical improvements needed to ensure safer, stronger roofs that won't crush down in rollovers. This article explores the history and technology of vehicle roof design and FMVSS 216, and cites specific case examples. Published in Crash Test Technology International, May 2008.
The deadly truck underride hazard occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into and continues deeply beneath a tall truck or trailer, often causing fatal head injuries due to the lack of effective guard devices. There is a compelling need to upgrade the rear underride and side underride requirements to ensure effective guards that will deflect and stop penetration by the passenger vehicle. Published in Crash Test Technology International, Sept. 2008.
Nobody said it was easy inventing life-saving technologies, but the least we can do once they're developed is get them out to the general public more quickly. By looking back at how airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, stronger roofs, and safer fuel tanks became implemented, there are tactics that can encourage more rapid adoption of safety technology. Published in Vision Zero International, January 2010.
In side impacts and rollovers, the side windows of tempered glass often shatter completely out, leaving large portals through which the occupants are partially or completely ejected, often with fatal consequences. It has been well known for decades (and in NHTSA tests) that laminated glass stays intact and serves as a "life net" to keep occupants safely within the vehicle, but too many automakers have been reluctant to adopt this safer glass-plastic-glass laminated technology. Published in Crash Test Technology International, June 2010.
For large trucks and tractor-trailer rigs, there safety technologies that can improve their crashworthiness to better protect the driver and passengers. Stronger cabs, multiple airbags, better seats and seatbelts, are all critically needed. And underride guards and other measures must be included to help in "mismatch" collisions so the smaller vehicles and their occupants are not lethally overwhelmed. Published in Crash Test Technology International, June 2010.
Improvements in side impact protective technology are needed to help reduce the toll of 9,000 deaths per year in the US. Stronger rocker sections and floorpans, lateral cross-members, foam padding, side windows of laminated glass, side-curtain airbags are among the needed upgrades. While FMVSS 214 has been upgraded, the test matrix and severity must be increased to better represent real-world accidents. Published in Crash Test Technology International, June 2009.
The history and technology of airbag development, including some airbag designs that cause needless injury, and innovations that can make airbags even safer. GM's first production airbag system in 1973 Chevy Impala sedans. Reasons why some airbags cause fatal injuries to children and to short-stature drivers. Compromises and omissions in some airbag systems. Airbag improvements, including tailored inflation, internal tethers, crash sensors, side-curtain airbags, and more. Published in proceedings of the 16th International ESV Conference, in Canada, 1998.
Pre-emption from liability for automakers would not advance justice for injured victims nor encourage safer vehicles, which should be designed to perform well beyond the minimum. So what would the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., decide? The original law that created NHTSA and the safety standards explicitly states that "Compliance with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard issued under this title does not exempt any person from any liability under common law." Published in Vision Zero International, January 2011. (After this article was published, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in February 2011 that preemption should not be granted, which is good news toward helping ensure that automakers do not settle for doing just the minimum in safety.)