Complete Road Safety Overview: Global Issues, Safety Laws, New Road Safety Measures, Car Safety Technology, Car Safety For Kids, Teenage Drivers

Background and History

Cars have become so commonplace that hardly anyone pays attention to the hordes of vehicles passing by in everyday life. There are, of course, head turners, the major attractions being the passing car’s design, size, glamorous features, color and more as well as the growing trend of factoring in its not-so-visible fuel economy. But it is the history of the automobile that is most fascinating, replete as it is, with a number of surprises.

The first vehicle to move under its own power (steam) on record was designed by Nicholas Cugnot and built by M. Brezin in 1769. These steam powered vehicles were so heavy that they were found practical only on a perfectly flat and strong surface, like iron. A road made of iron rails soon became the norm, paving the way for steam-engined railways at the beginning of the 19th century.

The first gas engine used coal gas generated by heating coal in a boiler. A Frenchman, Etienne Lenoir patented the first practical gas engine in Paris in 1860 and drove a car based on that design in 1862, with an external combustion gas engine. Lenoir claimed to have run the car on benzene with an electric spark ignition. If so, his vehicle was the first to run on petroleum based fuel, or petrol, or what we call gas, short for gasoline. In 1862, Alphonse de Rochas designed an engine that compressed the gas in the same cylinder in which it was to burn, as we still do today, but didn’t patent it. This process of gas intake into the cylinder, compressing it, combusting the compressed mixture, then exhausting it is known as the Otto cycle, because Nikolaus Otto patented an improved version of Rochas’ engine in 1876.

In 1886, German inventor Karl Benz built the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, breaking the Otto patent by claiming prior art from de Rochas.

The Car Enters America

In August 1888, William Steinway, owner of the famous Steinway & Sons piano factory, talked to Daimler about US manufacturing rights and by 1891 the Daimler Motor Company, owned by Steinway, was producing petrol engines for tramway cars, carriages, fire engines and boats in a plant in Hartford, CT, but not cars or automobiles.

Henry Ford had an engine running by 1893 and built his first car in 1896, selling it for $200. With the financial backing of a wealthy clique in Detroit, Ford formed the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but no cars were ever sold by this company, leading to its dissolutionin 1901.  Ford would not offer a car for sale until 1903.

In 1892 German engineer Rudolf Diesel built the engine that bears his name, an internal combustion engine that doesn’t require a spark to ignite the fuel-air mixture. He called it the “New Rational Combustion Engine”. In 1897, he built the first successful diesel engine. An internal combustion engine, it came into its own in the 1910s.

One Ransom Eli Olds got his car running by 1896, starting production in 1899. After an early failure with luxury vehicles, he established the first really successful production with the classic Curved Dash Oldsmobile. Ransom E. Olds was the first mass producer of gasoline powered automobiles in the United States, not Henry Ford. The large-scale, production-line manufacturing of affordable cars was debuted by Ransom Olds in 1902 at his Oldsmobile factory located in Lansing, Michigan and based upon the assembly line techniques pioneered by Marc Brunel at the Portsmouth Block Mills, England, in 1802.

This fledgling process was refined by Henry Ford, who had achieved greater success by making and selling cheaper cars, valued at four month’s salary for a worker at his plant, so much so that he was producing more cars than he could offload (one every 15 minutes) because the paint hadn’t dried. Only Japanese black paint fitted the bill and that was why all Ford cars were black, until fast-drying Duco lacquer was developed in 1926.

By today’s standards, the 1923 Ford was a monster to drive. In the Model T, the left-side hand lever sets the rear wheel parking brakes and puts the transmission in neutral. The lever to the right controls the throttle. The lever on the left of the steering column is for ignition timing. The left foot pedal changes the two forward gears while the centre pedal controls reverse. The right pedal is the brake. Today’s generation finds it hard to even dream up such vehicles, in the current era of highly advanced technology and automation, what with voice commands, GPS, Head-up displays of important parameters, computer generated cruise control for optimal efficiency and economy, and a plethora of futuristic additions to luxury on wheels.

In advanced countries and in many other that are growing economically, like the BRIC, possession of a car has differing values. In the western world, particularly the US, the country would grind to a halt if cars were not available.

Monetary and Non-Monetary Costs

There are costs incurred in owning a car; the cost of buying the vehicle, repairs and maintenance, fuel, taxes, depreciation, transit time, parking fees insurance, all of which are weighed against the cost of the alternatives, to which the value of the benefits of vehicle use is added. Benefits include on-demand transportation, mobility, independence and convenience.

The costs to society include those of maintaining roads, land use, pollution, public health, health care, and of disposing of the vehicle at the end of its life, can be balanced against the value of the benefits to society that car use generates. The societal benefits include: economic benefits, such as jobs and wealth creation, transportation provision, society wellbeing derived from leisure and travel opportunities, and revenue generation from the tax opportunities. The ability for humans to move flexibly from place to place has far-reaching implications for the nature of societies. The US has fought battles on Arabian or Middle East soil to protect its right to purchase oil at values that seem acceptable. Despite its aggressive renewable energy policies, Europe’s economy is getting more dependent on oil. Countries that have no reserves of or access to oil have perforce joined the US in their crusade, preventing OPEC countries from jacking oil prices sky high.

Road Safety Overview

Road traffic injuries constitute a major public health crisis, and are predicted to increase if road safety is not addressed adequatelys. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been concerned with this issue for over fifty years. As early as 1962, a WHO report discussed the nature and dynamics of the problem. In 1974, the World Health Assembly adopted a Resolution declaring road traffic accidents a major public health issue, to be addressed by Member States. The World Bank has encouraged borrowers to include road safety within their highway and urban transport projects.

Both organizations have now intensified their work in road traffic injury prevention, first reflected in the establishment in March 2000 of WHO’s Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention, the development and implementation of a WHO strategy for road traffic injury prevention, and greater financial and human support for road traffic injury prevention activities globally. Within the World Bank, an interdisciplinary task force was established to ensure that this important issue was regarded as a major public health issue and tackled jointly by transport and public health specialists.

Among other international organizations, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the United Nations Development Fund and the United Nations Children’s Fund, have all stepped up their road safety activities over the past decade and a half. The United Nations has become proactive and held several meetings to look back on achievements while mapping the road ahead, all the while stressing the implementation of the World report on road traffic injury prevention at the United Nations General Assembly. It set universal principles rather than a “blue print” for worldwide application, recognizing fully the need to identify local needs and the adaptation of “best practices” accordingly.

Road Traffic Accidents

Road traffic accidents are the largest cause of injury-related deaths worldwide. Approximately 1.24 million people die every year on the world’s roads, and another 20 to 50 million sustain serious, if non-fatal, injuries as a result of road traffic crashes. Nearly half the fatalities are wage earners, most often in indigent cases. These injuries and deaths have an immediate and immeasurable impact on the families affected, whose lives are often changed irrevocably, and on the communities in which these people lived and worked. Road traffic injuries are estimated to be the eighth leading cause of death globally. They are the leading cause of death and injuries for young people aged 15–29 years, and as a result take a heavy toll on those entering their most productive years, with at least 30-45 years of service to follow. Road traffic injuries have consistently been one of the top three causes of death for people.

Economically disadvantaged families are hardest hit by both direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost wages that result from these injuries. At the national level, road traffic injuries result in considerable financial costs, particularly to developing economies. Road traffic injuries are believed to cost low- and middle-income countries between 1–2 percent of their gross national product, estimated at over US$ 100 billion a year. Though lying at an alarming rank of 8th on the global scale for deaths, this dangerous factor is slated to rise to 5th by 2030, going by current trends. The American Automobile  Association (AAA) recently concluded that car crashes cost the United States $300 billion per year.

In 2002, road traffic injuries featured prominently in virtually every age group. The age group from 5-44 years stayed in the top three.

This article will look at the various factors contributing to deaths in road accidents across the globe, identify and highlight weak spots and remedial measures taken, before scrutinizing road deaths and accident prevention measures in detail in the U.S., which, along with other advanced countries, is some 15-20 years ahead of the rest of the world in implementing road safety measures.

Global Road Fatalities in Perspective

Imagine a diverse international group of 1000 individuals representative of the women, men and children from all over the globe who died in 2012. Comprehensive statistics are yet to be compiled for 2013-2014, but data for 2012 is an acceptable indicator. Of those 1000 people who died in 2012:

  • 133 would have come from low-income countries, 356 from lower-middle-income countries, 302 from upper-middle-income countries and 209 from high-income countries.
  • 143 would have been children under 15 years of age, 407 adults aged 15-69 years old and 450 adults aged 70 years and older.

What would be the top 10 causes of their deaths? More than half (514) of these 1000 deaths would have been caused by the 10 conditions listed in Chart 3.

There are quite a few differences between the rich and the poor countries in respect of cause of death. High-income countries enjoy greater longevity, with a large number of benefits tagged on. WHO has divided countries into low, medium and high income groups, using per capita income as its datum. The figures are:

  • Low Income: < US$ 1,005
  • Middle-range Income: US$ 1,006 to US$ 12, 275
  • High Income: > US$ 12, 275



In high-income countries, 70 percent of deaths occur in people of the age of 70 or more. People die mainly of chronic malaises: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic obstructive lung disease or dementia. Lower respiratory infections remain the only leading infectious cause of death. Deaths caused by road injuries are very low, at about 20 percent. This is mainly due to better vehicles, better infrastructure, better training, instant medical response and better road discipline.

WHO and the World Bank had forecast in their first major joint report that the total number of road traffic deaths worldwide and injuries is to rise by some 65 percent between 2000 and 2020, and in low-income and middle-income countries deaths are expected to increase by as much as 80 percent. The majority of such deaths are currently among “vulnerable road users” – pedestrians, pedal bicyclists motorcyclists and unspecified road users. In high-income countries, deaths among car occupants continue to be predominant, but the risks per capita that vulnerable road users face are high.

In addition to fatalities, road accidents are responsible for a staggering number of non-fatal injuries, between twenty and fifty million every year, leading to various disabilities. A study in Turkey estimated that approximately 13 percent severe to very severe difficulties result from the non-fatal accidents, while in India, an estimated 2 million people have a severe disability that has resulted from a road traffic crash.

Despite the enormous losses caused by road traffic injuries, they have for many years been neglected by national health and development agendas in many countries. Certain countries simply cannot afford it, which begs the question: Why allow motorized vehicles in the first place? That would be most unfair, when the rich nations have two-car families, if not three. Motorized travel must not be denied to any country, if only at a minimal scale. It is, without any doubt whatsoever, a Must Have. In such countries, as well as others in dire economical straits, funding for infrastructural interventions has not been commensurate with the scale of the problem. This is despite the fact that road traffic injuries are largely preventable and that the evidence base for effective interventions is extensive.

Road traffic injuries are increasing, notably in low- and middle-income countries, where rates are twice those in high-income countries. This is partly attributable to the rapid rate of motorization in many developing countries that has occurred without a parallel investment in road safety strategies and land use planning. While road traffic fatality rates are decreasing in some high-income countries, the rapid increase in road traffic crashes in low- and middle income countries has driven an overall global increase in deaths and injuries.

Current trends suggest that not only will road traffic injuries become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, but the disparity between high- and low-income countries will also become further accentuated. Nonetheless, many countries have shown that spectacular successes in precluding road traffic injuries can be achieved through vigorous efforts at the national level. A number of countries, such as Australia, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have achieved declines in road traffic death rates through coordinated, multipronged responses to the problem, involving the implementation of a number of proven measures that address not only the safety of the road user, but also vehicle safety, the road environment, immediate medical response and post-crash care.

Changing Fundamental Perceptions Of Road Safety

Since the last major WHO world report on road safety issued over 50 years ago, there has been a major change in the perception, understanding and practice of road injury prevention– a shift of paradigms – among traffic safety professionals around the world. One reason for the historical neglect of “injury” in public health is the traditional view of accidents and injuries as random events that happen to others. Such events are looked upon as an inevitable outcome of road transport.

Many highly-motorized countries, in response to rising road trauma levels during the 1960s and early 1970s, achieved large reductions in casualties through outcome-oriented and science-based approaches. This response was stimulated by campaigners including Ralph Nader in the United States via his 1972 book ‘Unsafe At Any Speed’, and given intellectual strength by scientists such as William Haddon Jr. in his Paper in the American Journal of Public Health in 1968, titled ‘The changing approach to the epidemiology, prevention, and amelioration of trauma: the transition to approaches etiologically rather than descriptively’. Haddon argued that

  • Road crash injury is largely preventable and predictable; it is a human-made problem amenable to rational analysis and countermeasure.
  • Road safety is a multi-sector issue and a public health issue – all sectors, including health, need to be fully engaged in responsibility, activity and advocacy for road crash injury prevention.
  • Common driving errors and common pedestrian behavior should not lead to death and serious injury –the traffic system should help users to cope with increasingly demanding conditions.
  • The vulnerability of the human body should be a limiting design parameter for the traffic system and speed management is central.
  • Road crash injury is a social equity issue – equal protection to all road users should be aimed for since non-motor vehicle users bear a disproportionate share of road injury and risk.
  • Technology transfer from high-income to low-income countries needs to fit local conditions and should address research-based local needs.
  • Local knowledge needs to inform the implementation of local solutions.

This led to the Swedish Government passing the edict infra:

In order to achieve a safe transport system, there must be a change in our views concerning responsibility, to the extent that system designers are given clearly defined responsibility for designing the road system on the basis of actual human capabilities, thereby preventing the occurrence of those cases of death and serious injury that are possible to predict and prevent.

Road traffic injury was accepted as a public health problem. In fact all of Haddin’s projections were accepted without second thought.

Studies show that motor vehicle crashes have an unbalanced impact on the poor and vulnerable in society. These are also the people with usually little influence over policy decisions. Even in high-income countries, poor children are at greater risk than children from more prosperous families.

Poorer people comprise the majority of casualties and lack ongoing support in the event of long-term injury. Lower socioeconomic groups have limited access to post-crash emergency health care. In addition, in many developing countries, the costs of prolonged medical care, the loss of the family breadwinner, the cost of a funeral, and the loss of income due to disability can push families into poverty. In Mexico, the second commonest cause of children being orphaned is traffic crashes.

Road Safety Sytems

In the majority of serious and fatal crashes, injuries are caused by loads and accelerations exceeding those the body can tolerate are applied. Pedestrians, for example, incur a risk of about 80 percent of being killed at a collision speed of 50 kilometres/hour (kph), as opposed to a 10 percent risk at speeds of 30 kph. At speeds of over 30 kph, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists increasingly make mistakes, the consequences of which are often fatal. The human tolerance to injury for a pedestrian hit by a car will be exceeded if the vehicle is travelling at over 30 kph. This accounts for the speed limits in use in densely urban areas, downtown and on highways.

Most traffic systems, however, whether in developing or under-developed countries, go beyond these limits on a regular basis. Separating cars and pedestrians on the road by providing pavements is rarely done. Speed limits of 30 kph in shared-space residential areas are commonly not implemented. Car and bus fronts, as generally designed, do not provide protection for pedestrians against injury at collision speeds of 30 km/hr or greater.

For car occupants, wearing seat-belts in well-designed cars can provide protection to a maximum of 70 kph in frontal impacts and 50 kph in side impacts . However, most infrastructure and speed limits in existence today allow much higher speeds without significant use of seat-belts. This is particularly the case in many low-income and middle-income countries. Air bags that could save lives are often an optional extra in developing countries. India is a case in point. The car to population ratio has improved to 41 cars per 1,000 people in 2011, a niggardly 135th out of 195 nations. The peoples’ car costs between $3,000 and $5,500. None of them have safety spars for a frontal or sideward crash, nor do they have air bags. They crumple at impact speeds of 40 kph or more. Seat belts for the rear seats are also an optional extra. They are however, popular and sell very well.

Technology Transfer From High-Income Countries to the Third World

A Systems Approach

An essential tool for effective road crash injury prevention is the adoption of a systems approach to:

  • Identify problems
  • Formulate strategy
  • Set targets
  • Monitor performance

William Haddon Jr. inspired safety professionals when he talked about road transport as an ill-designed, “man-machine” system needing comprehensive systemic treatment. He defined three phases of the time sequence of a crash event – pre-crash, crash and post-crash – as well as the epidemiological triad of human, machine and environment that can interact during each phase of a crash. The resulting nine-cell Haddon Matrix models a dynamic system, with each cell of the matrix allowing opportunities for intervention to reduce road crash injury.

Haddon’s Matrix




Pre-crash Crash prevention Information Roadworthiness Road design and road layout
Crash Injury prevention Use of restraints Occupant restraints Crash protective roadside objects
Post crash Life sustaining First-aid skill access to medics Ease of access fire risk Rescue facilities congestion

Building on Haddon’s insights, a wide range of strategies and techniques for casualty reduction has since been tested internationally, through scientific research and empirical observation. The strategies (discussed later) include interventions to reduce exposure to risk; to prevent road traffic crashes from occurring; to reduce the severity of injury in the event of a crash and to reduce the consequences of injury through improved post-collision care.

Case Study: Sweden’s Vision Zero

Vision Zero is a traffic safety policy, developed in Sweden in the late 1990s and based on four elements: ethics, responsibility, a philosophy of safety, and creating mechanisms for change. The Swedish parliament voted in October 1997 to adopt this policy and since then several other countries have followed suit.


Human life and health are paramount. According to Vision Zero, life and health should not be allowed in the long run to be traded off against the benefits of the road transport system, such as mobility. Mobility and accessibility are therefore functions of the inherent safety of the system, not vice versa as it is generally today.


Until recently, responsibility for crashes and injuries was placed principally on the individual road user. In Vision Zero, responsibility is shared between the providers of the system and the road users. The system designers and enforcers – such as those providing the road infrastructure, the car-making industry and the police – are responsible for the functioning of the system. At the same time, the road user is responsible for following basic rules, such as obeying speed limits and not driving while under the influence of alcohol. If the road users fail to follow such rules, the responsibility falls on the system designers to redesign the system, including rules and regulations.

Safety philosophy

In the past, the approach to road safety was generally to put the onus on the road user. In Vision Zero, this is replaced by an outlook that has been used with success in other fields. Its two premises are that:

  • Human beings make errors;
  • There is a critical limit beyond which survival and recovery from an injury are not possible.

It is clear that a system that combines human beings with fast-moving, heavy machines will be very unstable It is sufficient for a driver of a vehicle to lose control for just a fraction of a second for a human tragedy to occur. The road transport system should therefore be able to take account of human failings and absorb errors in such a way as to avoid deaths and serious injuries. Crashes and even minor injuries, on the other hand, need to be accepted. The important point is that the chain of events that leads to a death or disability must be broken, and in a way that is sustainable, so that over the longer time period loss of health is eliminated.

Driving mechanisms for change

To change the system involves following the first three elements of the policy. While society as a whole benefits from a safe road transport system in economic terms, Vision Zero relates to the citizen as an individual and his or her right to survive in a complex system. It is therefore the demand from the citizen for survival and health that is the main driving force. In Vision Zero, the providers and enforcers of the road transport system are responsible to citizens and must guarantee their safety in the long term. In so doing, they are necessarily required to cooperate with each other, for simply looking after their own individual components will not produce a safe system. At the same time, the road user has an obligation to comply with the basic rules of road safety.

In Sweden, the main measures undertaken to date include:

  • setting safety performance goals for various parts of the road traffic system;
  • a focus on vehicle crash protection, and support for the consumer information program of the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP);
  • securing higher levels of seat-belt use and fitting smart, audible seat-belt reminders in new cars;
  • installing crash-protective central barriers on single-carriageway rural roads;
  • encouraging local authorities to implement 30 kph zones;
  • wider use of speed camera technology;
  • an increase in the number of random breath tests;
  • the promotion of safety as a competitive variable in road transport contracts.

While the Vision Zero does not say that the ambitions on road safety historically have been wrong, the actions that would have to be taken are partly different. The main differences probably can be found within how safety is being promoted; there are also some innovations that will come out as a result of the vision, especially in infrastructure and speed management.

Action For Road Safety

In 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which proclaimed a Decade of Action for Road Safety. The goal of the Decade (2011–2020) is to stabilize and reduce the increasing trend in road traffic fatalities, saving an estimated 5 million lives over the period.

Five pillars were adopted to guide national road safety plans and activities over the said Decade of Action. These five pillars are:

All nations were to use these pillars to bolster road safety measures. A Global Plan of Action was developed accordingly, providing practical tools to help governments develop national and local plans of action, while providing a framework for coordinating activities at regional and global levels. After laying down broad agreements in the first Global Safety Report on Road Safety in 2009, the second report was published in 2010 laying down guidelines to achieve aims listed under National Activities. This report, the second Global Status Report on Road Safety, meets this request and will provide the baseline data (from 2010) for monitoring progress through the Decade of Action.

The Purpose of The Second Report

The specific objectives of the second Global Status Report on Road Safety are to:

  • Describe the burden of road traffic injuries and implementation of effective interventions in all Member States using a standardized methodology, and assess changes since the publication of the first Global status report in 2009.
  • Indicate gaps in road safety nationally across a number of domains (institutional management, policies, legislation, data collection) to stimulate and prioritize road safety activities.
  • Serve as a baseline for monitoring activities relating to the Decade of Action for Road Safety at national and international levels.

The report says that there has been no overall reduction in the number of people killed globally: about 1.24 million deaths still occur annually. When considered in the context of a corresponding 15 percent global increase in the number of registered vehicles, interventions to improve global road safety have mitigated the expected rise in the number of deaths. Eighty-eight countries – in which almost 1.6 billion people live – reduced the number of deaths on their roads by 2010, showing that improvements are possible, and that many more lives will be saved if countries take further action. But 107 countries did not, registering increases in the numbers of road traffic deaths over the same period. The highest road traffic fatality rates are in middle-income countries, particularly the African Region. More than three-quarters of all road traffic deaths are among young males.

The Current State of Global Road Safety

Only 28 countries, representing 449 million people (7 percent of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors (speed, driving when under the influence of alcohol, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints). Since two wheelers are outside our purview, the risk factors reduce to four, i.e., without helmets. 35 countries, representing almost 10 percent of the world’s population, passed laws to address one or more of these five key risk factors. But that figure of 28 remained depressingly static.

The report serves as a strong warning to governments to address the needs of non-motorized road users. Twenty-seven percent of all road traffic deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists. In low and middle-income countries, this figure is closer to a third of all road deaths, but in some countries is more than 75 percent. As the world continues to motorize, walking and cycling need to be made safe and promoted as healthy and cheap mobility options. Addressing the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is critical to successfully reducing the total number of global road traffic deaths.

Middle-income Countries Are Hit Hardest

The overall global road traffic fatality rate is 18 per 100 000 population. However, middle-income countries have the highest annual road traffic fatality rates, at 20.1 per 100 000, while the rate in high-income countries is lowest, at 8.7 per 100 000.

Of the 88 countries in which the number of road traffic deaths decreased, 42 are high-income countries, 41 are middle-income, and five low-income. Just to remind you, the US falls in the high-income countries.

Fatality Rates

The African region has the highest road traffic fatality rate. There are large disparities in road traffic death rates between regions. The risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in the African Region (24.1 per 100 000 population), and lowest in the European Region (10.3 per 100 000).

There is also considerable disparity in rates between countries within the same region. The European Region has the highest inequalities in road traffic fatality rates, with low-income countries having rates nearly three times higher than high-income countries (18.6 per 100 000 population compared to 6.3 per 100 000); These are similar to rates in South East Asia and Western Pacific Regions.

The Americas Region has the lowest proportion of vulnerable road user deaths (41 percent), this figure ranges from 22 percent in Venezuela to 75 percent or more in Costa Rica, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The USA, which had an alarmingly high number of road deaths in 1990 at 44,599 fatalities has shown a progressive reduction in numbers every year and reached a low of 32,479 fatalities in 2011. 2012 saw an increase of over 1,300, with 33,782 fatalities.  Comprehensive data on all road accidents in the US is also available.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) is commemorated every year on the third Sunday of November, (November 16 in 2014) to remember the millions killed and injured on the world’s roads. WDR is also an opportunity of reflecting on the tremendous burden and heavy costs of these tragedies. Almost 60 percent of road traffic deaths are among 15-44-year-olds and for every road traffic fatality, at least 20 people sustain non-fatal injuries. Only 59 countries, covering just 39 percent of the world’s population, have implemented an urban speed limit of 50 km/h or less, and allow local authorities to reduce these limits.

Chart 13 shows the breakdown of road fatalities by road user type and country income status. Low-income countries have the highest proportion of deaths among vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists combined) at 57 percent, with this figure lower in both middle-income (51 percent) and high-income countries (39 percent).

Regional variations are evident but mostly follow the same pattern, save in high-income countries, where the proportion of deaths among those over 70 years is noticeably greater than in low- and middle-income countries. This difference is most likely related to longevity in these countries, combined with the greater risk posed by reduced mobility and increased frailty.

The Five Pillars of Progress (Chart 8)

Pillar 1: Road safety management.

Adhere to and/or fully implement UN legal instruments and encourage the creation of regional road safety instruments. Encourage the creation of multi-sector partnerships and designation of lead agencies with the capacity to develop and lead the delivery of national road safety strategies, plans and targets, underpinned by the data collection and evidential research to assess countermeasure design and monitor implementation and effectiveness.

Pillar 2: Safer roads and mobility.

Raise the inherent safety and protective quality of road networks for the benefit of all road users, especially the most vulnerable (e.g. pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists). This will be achieved through the implementation of various road infrastructure agreements under the UN framework, road infrastructure assessment and improved safety-conscious planning, design, construction and operation of roads. Promote road safety ownership and accountability among road authorities, road engineers and urban planners by: encouraging governments and road authorities to set a target to “eliminate high risk roads by 2020”; encouraging road authorities to commit a minimum of 10 percent of road budgets to dedicated safer road infrastructure programs.

Pillar 3: Safer vehicles.

Encourage universal deployment of improved vehicle safety technologies for both passive and active safety through a combination of harmonization of relevant global standards, consumer information schemes and incentives to accelerate the uptake of new technologies. Encourage implementation of new car assessment programs in all regions of the world in order to increase the availability of consumer information about the safety performance of motor vehicles.

Pillar 4: Safer road users.

Develop comprehensive programs to improve road user behavior. Sustained or increased enforcement of laws and standards, combined with public awareness/education to increase seat-belt and helmet wearing rates, and to reduce drink-driving, speed and other risk factors. Increase awareness of road safety risk factors and prevention measures and implement social marketing campaigns to help influence attitudes and opinions on the need for road traffic safety programs.

Pillar 5: Post crash response.

Increase responsiveness to post-crash emergencies and improve the ability of health and other systems to provide appropriate emergency treatment and longer term rehabilitation for crash victims. Develop pre-hospital care systems, including the extraction of a victim from a vehicle after a crash, immediate medical intervention and implementation of a single nationwide telephone number for emergencies, through the implementation of existing good practices.

Centralized Road Safety Control

Involving multiple sectors in national road safety efforts is critical. Countries need a lead agency for road safety, which should have the authority to make decisions, manage resources and coordinate efforts of all participating governmental sectors, including those of health, transport, education and law enforcement. One hundred and sixty-two countries (89 percent) have a lead agency for road safety, of which 122 are funded. National road safety strategies should include targets to minimize injuries, deaths and key risk factors.

Each country should have a road safety strategy that is multisector – involving agencies concerned with transport, health, law enforcement, education and other relevant sectors – and also multidisciplinary, involving both government and nongovernment stakeholders. Currently, 139 countries have a single or multiple national strategies on road safety. Governments also need to ensure sufficient resources to effectively develop and, implement their national strategies: of 139 countries with national strategies, 119 are partially or fully funded.

A road traffic fatality should be defined as “any person killed immediately or dying within 30 days as a result of a road traffic accident”. The choice of 30 days is based on research that shows that most people who die as a result of a crash succumb to their injuries within 30 days of sustaining them, and that while extension of this 30-day period results in a marginal increase in numbers, it requires a disproportionately large increase in surveillance efforts.

Of the number of deaths reported, almost all data sources show that about three quarters of the traffic deaths are among men and that the highest impact is in the economically active age ranges.

Population, Road Traffic Deaths And Registered Vehicles By Income Group

Trends in Road Traffic Fatality Rates in Select High-Income Countries:

Chart 15      Since 1994, the highest death rate per 100,000 people in high income nations has been in the USA.

New Road Safety Laws: Progress to Date

Encouraging a culture of safe road behavior to achieve sustained reductions in road traffic injuries requires persistence. Nonetheless, many countries have, within a relatively short timeframe, implemented and enforced effective legislation to reduce speeding and drink–driving, and increase use of motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. Sustaining high levels of enforcement and maintaining a high perception of enforcement are essential to the success of such legislative measures.

Road safety legislation has been strengthened in 35 countries, representing almost 10 percent of the world’s population. These countries passed laws to address one or more key risk factors affecting road traffic injuries and fatalities – speed, drink–driving, motorcycle helmet use, seat-belts, and child restraints. While 94 countries now have national laws that address all five key risk factors to some degree, there has been no increase since the end of 2008 in the number of countries with comprehensive laws covering all five risk factors. 28 countries (with just 7 percent of the world’s population) have comprehensive laws in all five areas.

Reducing Speed Limits

Speeding is a major road safety problem in all countries. Faster driving speeds increase the likelihood of a crash occurring, and the severity of the crash consequences. Interventions to reduce speed can lead to significant reductions in road traffic injuries. In urban areas, with high concentrations of pedestrians and cyclists, measures to reduce speed are critical to the safety of these road users.

At present, even in high-performing countries, there is diversity in speed limits used for particular road types, but most countries follow a hierarchical approach and adopt speed limits within the following levels:

  • Higher speed roads: Motorways, expressways and multi-lane divided highways ideally ensure no contact between motorized and non-motorized traffic and have barriers to separate opposing directions of traffic. In general they have the lowest rates of road injuries because of these features. In most high-income countries, speed limits are set at between 90–130 km/h.
  • Rural roads: single lane carriageways in rural areas include many different types of roads and speed limits in high-performing countries vary from 70–100 km/h. These roads have much higher rates of injuries than higher speed roads, because of large differences in speed between various types of users.
  • Urban roads: roads in towns and cities are usually shared by pedestrians, cyclists, users of public transport as well as higher speed traffic. While 50 km/h is considered best practice for urban speed limits, there is much evidence to support reducing these limits to 30 km/h as a way of traffic calming in areas with high pedestrian concentration, something easier said than done. Only 59 countries both implement national urban speed limits of less than or equal to 50 km/h and allow local authorities to further reduce these limits where appropriate. These countries represent 2.67 billion people, or just 39 percent of the world’s population.

Drinking and Driving Laws

Drinking and driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash, as well as the severity of resulting injuries. The vast majority of adult drivers are affected or impaired with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 gm/deciliter (g/dl), while at a BAC level of 0.1 g/dl the crash risk is approximately five times higher than that of someone with a BAC level of zero. Young and novice drivers who drink and drive have a greatly increased risk of a crash compared to more experienced drivers. The effects of alcohol impairment are magnified when combined with fatigue, affecting long-haul truck drivers. This limit is 0.08 g/dl in the U.S.

Setting and enforcing legislation on BAC limits of 0.05 g/dl can lead to significant reductions in alcohol-related crashes. Since 2008, there has been progress in strengthening drink–driving legislation: 89 countries, covering 66 percent of the world’s population (4.55 billion people), now have a comprehensive drink–driving law, defined as a BAC limit of 0.05 g/dl or less, which is in line with the best practice, helping protect 186 million people. High-income countries are more likely to have a legal BAC limit of 0.05 g/dl or less (67 percent) than are middle- or low-income countries (49 and 21 percent, respectively). Even in the 17 countries where alcohol consumption is legally prohibited, a drink–driving law based on a BAC of less than or equal to 0.05 g/dl is recommended, and is already in place in a number of countries, such as Mali, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Increasing Seat-Belt Use

Failure to use a seat-belt is a major risk factor for road traffic injuries and deaths among vehicle occupants. Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 40–50 percent for drivers and front seat occupants, and between 25–75 percent for rear seat occupants. Seat-belt wearing rates vary greatly between countries, and to a large extent are governed by the existence and enforcement of mandatory seat-belt laws.

In many countries, drivers and front seat passengers are legally obliged to use seat-belts, but this does not always apply to rear seat occupants. While the vast majority of countries have legislation on mandatory seat-belt use, a number of countries do not apply these laws to both front and rear seat occupants.

Comprehensive seat-belt laws covering all occupants are in place in 111 countries, meaning 69 percent of the world’s population (4.8 billion people) are fully protected by these laws (see Figure 17). Ten countries, covering 182 million people, put in place comprehensive seat-belt laws since 2008. But more needs to be done.

Increasing Use of Child Restraints

Child restraint systems protect infants and young children from injury during a crash. Infants and children need child restraint systems that can accommodate their size and weight, and that can adapt to different stages of their development. Child restraints reduce the likelihood of a fatal crash by close to 70 percent among infants and between 54 percent and 80 percent among young children. Over the past decade, vehicle safety technology has made an important contribution in improving correct installation of child restraints.

Ninety-six countries have a law requiring child restraints. The majority of high-income countries have child restraint laws in place, while such laws are far less common in low- and middle-income countries. Most of the 51 European countries have enacted child restraint laws, but only one of 11 South-East Asia countries has passed such a law. Seven countries have passed a child restraint law since 2008. The majority of high-income countries (88 percent) have child-restraint laws in place, while such laws are far less common in low- and middle-income countries (30 and 43 percent, respectively). But, enforcement of child restraint laws remains low in most countries: only 17 countries (9%) rate their enforcement of child restraint laws as “good.”

USA – Leader in Implementing New Road Safety Measures

Having charted the many measures suggested by the WHO over the last sixty years, it is clear that most of the research involved was done in the USA. From research with path-breaking results to implementation is not a small step, as changing theory to practice can be challenging. Fortunately, the U.S. is not averse to implementing findings of different panels in the advanced countries around the globe in the main.

It is obvious that the U.S., along with the rich countries is 15-20 years ahead in technology, when compared to the rest of the world. Its Medevac teams are possibly the best. But there is immense scope for improvement in each segment and research carries on to make roads a safer place to be on than it actually is today.  In the pages that follow, it will become obvious that the rich countries are forward thinking, passing its lessons on to countries climbing the beaten path. The U.S. is battling to shed its tag as the rich nation with the highest death rate per 100,000 people.


How Usa Fares In Road Safety At The Global Level

Chart 18.  Source: Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013- Supporting a Decade of Action

Accident Statistics And Fatalities In The Usa 2001-2012


No Of Deaths


Fatalities per 100,000 Population

Percentage Change





























































Chart 19. Accident Deaths in the US by Year

Overview of 2013 Motor Vehicle Crashes in the U.S.

After an increase in motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2012 (Chart 19), fatalities on U.S. roadways in 2013 resumed the decline that had started seven years prior. Despite the decline in fatalities, the Nation still lost 32,719 people in crashes on roadways during 2013, down from 33,782 in 2012. The number of people injured on the Nation’s roads decreased in 2013 as well, falling from 2.4 to 2.3 million injured people. Fatalities and injuries declined in almost all segments of the population—passenger vehicle occupants, large-truck occupants, pedestrians, young drivers, and with alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. Although the fatalities and injuries decreased from 2012 to 2013, the total number of crashes that occurred on the roads increased slightly—primarily a result of an almost 3-percent increase in crashes that resulted in no injuries, only property damage.

Over the past 10 years, there has been a reduction of nearly 25 percent in the number of fatalities on the Nation’s roadways. The number of injured people, which has seen subtle fluctuation in recent years, experienced a slight (and not statistically significant) decrease. In 2013, there was a decrease of 49,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes over 2012. The number of people who died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased by 2.5 percent. In 2013, 10,076 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.

Overall Statistics in the US

In 2013, 32,719 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States, a 3.1-percent decrease from the 33,782 fatalities in 2012. This decline shows a continuation in the general decline in fatalities that started in 2006, except for the increase in 2012, according to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). An estimated 2.31 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013, compared to 2.36 million in 2012 according to NHTSA’s National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES), a decrease of 2.1 percent . The change in the number of injured people from 2012 to 2013 is not significant (Chart 22).

Fatality and Injury Rates

The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased 3.5 percent from 1.14 in 2012 to 1.10 in 2013 (Chart 21). This fatality rate ties that from 2011 as the lowest fatality rate on record. The overall injury rate also decreased in 2013 by 2.5 percent from 2012. The 2013 rates are based on VMT estimates from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) September 2014 Traffic Volume Trends (TVT). Overall, 2013 VMT decreased by 0.1 percent from 2012 VMT—from 2,969 billion to 2,966 billion. VMT data will be updated when FHWA releases the 2013 Annual Highway Statistics.

Occupants and Nonoccupants

Motor vehicle crash fatalities and injuries decreased in 2013, as shown in Chart 23. Total fatalities decreased by 3.1 percent and decreased across all person type categories except pedal-cyclists. The estimated number of people injured decreased by 2.1 percent, not a statistically significant change from 2012.

At 21,132 fatalities, the number of passenger vehicle occupants who died in 2013 is the lowest on record. Deaths among passenger vehicle occupants had shown an increase in 2012, the first since 2002, but in 2013, the 3-percent decrease resumed the general downward trend in this category. Pedestrian fatalities decreased by 1.7 percent from 2012 to 2013. It is the first decrease since 2009 and is important at a time of growing concern over pedestrian safety.

Change in Fatality Composition

The fatality composition in 2004 and 2013 is shown in Chart 24. The most obvious shift is in the category of passenger car occupant fatalities—changing from 45 percent of the fatalities to 37 percent. This change comes as the result of 7,215 fewer passenger car occupant fatalities. A reduction of 3,519 light-truck occupant fatalities led to a decrease in that section. Motorcyclist fatalities take up 14 percent of the total, compared to 9 percent 10 years ago. The portion of non-occupant fatalities has increased from 13 percent to 17 percent over the 10-year period .

Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Fatalities and Drivers

Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased by 2.5 percent from 2012 to 2013 (Chart 25), accounting for 31 percent of 2013 overall fatalities. An alcohol-impaired-driving fatality is defined as a fatality in a crash involving a driver or motorcycle rider (operator) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 g/dL or higher. Motorcycle riders showed the greatest decrease in the number of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2012 to 2013, dropping 8.3 percent or by 117 riders. This was both the greatest percentage drop and the greatest drop in actual alcohol-impaired drivers. Large-truck drivers were the only group to show an increase in the number of alcohol-impaired drivers.

Restraint Use and Time of Day

Among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants, almost half (49%) of those killed in 2013 were unrestrained (Chart 26). Note that there is an increase in the number of restrained occupants killed and a decrease in the number of unrestrained occupants killed. This is perhaps an indication of a general increase in restraint use over time—in particular during the day—as was shown in the seat belt use rate estimated through the National Occupant Protection Use Survey for 2013. The number of unrestrained fatalities during the daytime fell from 43 percent to 40 percent, thus 60 percent of those killed were restrained. This counterintuitive aspect came up because some motor vehicle crashes are not survivable.

For those passenger vehicle occupants that survived a fatal crash in 2013, only 16 percent were unrestrained. During the daytime, 13 percent of passenger vehicle occupants that survived a fatal crash were unrestrained, thus 87 percent of the survivors were restrained. This compares to the nighttime restraint use among the survivors: 19 percent of the nighttime crash survivors were unrestrained and 81 percent of the nighttime crash survivors were restrained.

Lives Saved in 2012 by Restraint Use and Drinking Laws

In 2012, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,174 lives. Seat belts have saved nearly 63,000 lives during the 5-year-period from 2008 to 2012, as estimated by NHTSA. In addition to the 12,174 lives saved in 2012 by seat belts (occupants 5 and older), 2,213 lives were saved by frontal air bags (occupants 13 and older), 525 lives were saved by 21-year-old-minimum-drinking-age laws, and 284 lives (4 and younger) were saved by child restraints (child safety seats and lap/shoulder belts). An additional 3,031 lives would have been saved in 2012 if all unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts.

Year Lives Saved, Age 4 & Younger Lives Saved, Age 5 & Older Lives Saved, Age 13 & Older Lives Saved Additional Lives That Would Have Been Saved at 100 Percent Use
Child Restraints Seat Belts Frontal Air Bags Minimum Drinking Age Law Seat Belts
2008 286 13,312 2,557 716 4,171
2009 307 12,763 2,387 626 3,700
2010 303 12,582 2,315 552 3,353
2011 262 11,983 2,210 535 3,394
2012 284 12,174 2,213 525 3,031

Chart 27: Lives Saved and Could Have Been Saved 2008-12

Roadway Departure Crash

A Roadway Departure Crash is one in which a vehicle crosses an edge line, a center line, or leaves the traveled way. Types of crashes fitting the definition include fatal crashes in which the first event for at least one of the involved vehicles ran-off-road (right or left), crossed the centerline or median, went airborne, or hit a fixed object.

Intersection Crash

An intersection crash includes intersection and intersection-related crashes as well as driveway and alley access or related crashes.

Interesting Facts

  • Passenger vehicle occupants killed in single-vehicle rollovers decreased 7.3 percent in 2013. For SUVs, that decrease was 12 percent.
  • Twenty-four percent of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes in 2013 had a previous license suspension or revocation (within just the last three years, for alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related offenses).
  • The decrease in the number of young drivers involved in fatal crashes (358) from 2012 to 2013 makes up 33 percent of the decrease in all drivers involved during that time (1,090).
  • In 2013, all age groups under 55 years old showed decreases in fatalities. Fatalities among the 55+ community increased from 2012 to 2013.
  • Sixty-two percent of large-truck occupants killed in 2013 died in single-vehicle crashes.

Car Safety Technology

Car Safety Technology of the Future

In the 1960s and 70s, car buyers were only into speed and power. The circle has now turned almost 180°.  From top-end vehicles to low-priced ones, active-safety technology is becoming a given, evolving as rapidly as technology permits. In the not-too-distant future, there will be cars that warn each other of an impending collision, and even cars that drive by themselves. Active safety technology has come a long way. Safety is a big industry push now as in-vehicle safety trickles down to more models. The U.S. Department of Transport states that 21,000 of the annual 33,000 road accident deaths in the U.S. are caused by roadway departures and intersection-related incidents. These will be analyzed later.

Collision Avoidance Systems

A collision avoidance system is an automobile safety system designed to help a driver reduce prevent or reduce the severity of an accident, either through his actions, or as is becoming more popular, automatically. It is variously known as Pre-safe Braking, Collision Warning with Auto-Brake (CWAB), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Precrash System, Forward Collision Warning System, and uses radar and sometimes laser and camera to detect an imminent crash. The radar works in any weather, whereas the others are affected by bad weather, including dust.

Forward Collision Warning (FCW) systems detect when the vehicle ahead is slowing or has stopped and alert the driver of the impending risk of a crash (within up to 3.0 seconds). Forward Collision Warning detects whether a crash is imminent by computing the ‘Time To Contact’ taking into account host vehicle speed, relative speed and relative acceleration. The latter are measured using change of the image size of the target (scale change).When a vehicle gets too close to the vehicle in-front, these systems either warn the driver by audio or visual means or both, if so fitted, or react on their own without any driver input (by braking or steering or both). Cars with Collision avoidance systems are also equipped with adaptive cruise control (ACC), and use the same sensors that ACC does. The makes of cars globally are legion; so are the types of collision avoidance systems.

Some systems offer collision warning with brake support. Here, if the driver does not react after the collision warning has been given, the brake support function prepares the brake system to react quickly, and the brakes are applied slightly. If the driver has not applied the brakes, many of the newer systems apply strong braking automatically to help reduce the impact of the crash. Many systems will also activate the seat belt pre-tensioners, and pre-charge the airbag systems and the brakes. Other systems may stop the vehicle completely to avoid the crash. The negative effect here is that the car behind you might ram into you, causing a whiplash injury.

In 2009, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began studying whether to make frontal collision warning systems and lane departure warning systems mandatory. In 2011, the NHTSA recommended the inclusion of additional safety technologies to the NCAP safety rating. This will include Lane Departure Warning and FCW. The EU made fitting of Advanced Emergency Braking Systems in commercial vehicles mandatory by 1 November 2013 for new vehicle types and on 1 November 2015 for all new vehicles in the Union. This could, according to the impact assessment, ultimately prevent around 5,000 fatalities and 50,000 serious injuries per year across the EU.

Precautions to keep in mind

  • The system warning range differs by make, but generally above 40 km/h. The warning distance can usually be selected by the driver.
  • These systems are designed to aid in the driving task. They are not intended to replace the driver’s attention and judgment. The driver is still responsible for maintaining a safe distance and speed even when the collision warning system is in use.
  • The automatic braking function will not prevent a collision. The driver must apply the brakes for full braking effect.
  • FCW systems do not take control of your vehicle or prevent you from driving.
  • They do not work in all driving situations, traffic, weather and road conditions.
  • The radar sensor may not be able to detect stationary vehicles.
  • The radar sensor may detect the wrong vehicle or lose a detected vehicle in curves.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by insurers and dedicated to minimizing dangers on the roads, found in 2012 that vehicles equipped with forward collision avoidance systems showed a significant reduction in damage from crashes. They studied the Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Acura vehicles’ technology and found that cars with an autonomous braking system, which allows the vehicle to brake in an emergency without driver input, were most effective, showing a 14 percent reduction in property damage liability insurance claims. They also found that adaptive headlights which shift the headlights in the direction the driver steers helpful, while lane departure systems were surprisingly, not helpful, and perhaps harmful. Collision avoidance features are rapidly making their way into the new vehicle fleet.

The whole idea behind these in-vehicle safety technologies is to reduce the number of car accidents while requiring the driver to do little, if anything at all. An early iteration of this type of technology was anti-lock brakes and air bags. Those two technologies first appeared in high-end luxury vehicles but are now found on most vehicles. History is repeating itself with advanced collision technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive headlights and front- and rear-collision warning systems becoming de rigueur. High-tech items tend to start off in higher-margin, expensive luxury cars and, as something new comes up, they trickle down into the lower segment at lower cost. Mercedes-Benz is one car manufacturer that releases technology first in its high-end models before bringing it to lower-tier models. But it’s not only the luxury vehicle manufacturers that are bringing safety technology to their models. Volvo, Subaru and Toyota also offer advanced safety technology as standard equipment on certain models, and they are only a few examples.

Available Technologies in Today’s Cars

“Some of those features found in many of Toyota’s lineup include lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor, automatic high beams, vehicle stability control, and pre-collision systems,” according to Toyota spokeswoman Cindy Knight. “A majority of collisions that result in serious injury can be attributed to human error,”she adds. “At Toyota, we approach this problem two ways. One is to develop and deploy in-car technologies that are designed to help support the driver’s awareness of his surroundings,” she explains. The other is to educate drivers about the rules of the road and how to avoid distractive driving.

Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist system, which uses cameras to monitor the road and provide both audio and visual warnings if it recognizes potentially dangerous driving situations and even apply automatic braking when necessary, is already in most of its highest-volume car lines and will be rolled out to more vehicles, according to their spokesperson. A 2014 Subaru Legacy with EyeSight costs a tad more than $26,000, a good example of cars in the market at mid-range and lower price points with active-safety technology.

Safety has always been a byword for Volvo, which is why advanced-safety technology has been standard on all its models since 2008 when it incorporated a self-braking system. But the safety features don’t stop there. According to Trent Victor, senior specialist in safety analysis and human factors at Volvo Technology, Volvo’s safety technology is closely tied to reducing collisions and includes forward collision warnings, auto braking at high speeds, road-edge and barrier detection with steer assist and adaptive cruise control. The carmaker recently introduced pedestrian detection in darkness and also plans to introduce cyclist detection in its vehicles.

Advances in Technology Reduce Accidents

While these technologies may seem like novelties or a way for a car manufacturer to have bragging rights, they are effective. As already stated, crash prevention systems that provide warnings, the systems that provide automatic braking, and adaptive headlights that help drivers see better at night are preventing crashes, much to the delight of Insurance companies.

A lot of the attention recently has focused on the concept of the Connected Car. It got a big push on 3 February 2014 when the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology to be built into cars. This technology would improve safety by allowing vehicles to “talk” to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes altogether by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second. “Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen so far,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry.”

Connected Car – Vehicular Network

The connected vehicle takes advantage of global positioning systems, or GPS, and dedicated short-range communication system that sends basic safety messages to surrounding vehicles. The systems can track the speed and position of the vehicle and any other vehicles around it, and would notify drivers if a car came into their blind spots or alert them to a car suddenly braking ahead. As an example, if you are the last car in a group of seven and the first one brakes abruptly, it’s unlikely that you, as a driver of a traditional vehicle, will respond before the chain reaction reaches you, and you will likely crash into the sixth car. But with connected cars, once the first vehicle brakes heavily, it can issue a warning to following drivers. Another example of where connected cars can help drivers avoid accidents is when they warn a driver with a green light that a vehicle is driving through a red light as he or she nears the intersection. It may even alert a driver to icy road conditions ahead.

“Initially, connected vehicle technology will simply, yet effectively, provide drivers with information pertaining to safety, mobility, convenience,” says Luke Neurauter, group leader for the Connected & Advanced Vehicle Systems group at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “The next step will be integrating connected vehicle and active safety technologies together, further increasing safety on our roadways,” he adds. This video released by U.S. authorities clarifies all doubts and queries.

Generally, vehicle networks are considered to contain two types of nodes: vehicles and roadside stations. Both are dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) devices. DSRC works in the 5.9 GHz band with a bandwidth of 75 MHz and approximate range of 1000 m (1100 yards) and supports both private data and public (safety) communications. In North America, DSRC devices operate over seven 10 MHz channels. Two of the channels are used solely for public safety applications. This means that they can only be used for communications of messages with a certain priority or higher. Vehicle communication is usually developed as a part of intelligent transportation systems (ITS). ITS seeks to achieve safety and productivity through intelligent transportation which integrates communication between mobile and fixed nodes. To this end, ITS heavily relies on wired and wireless communications.

This number of road accidents and consequent deaths can be significantly lowered by deploying local warning systems through vehicle communications. Departing vehicles can inform other vehicles that they intend to depart the highway and arriving cars at intersections can send warning messages to other cars traversing that intersection.

Although the main advantage of vehicle networks is safety improvements, there are several other benefits. Vehicular networks can help in avoiding congestion and finding better routes by processing real time data. This in return saves both time and fuel and has significant economic advantages. V2V (vehicle to vehicle) is the most recent version of ITS, designed to allow automobiles to “talk” to each other in a standard language. In April 2014, it was reported that U.S. regulators were close to approving V2V standards for the market, and that officials were planning for the technology to be in place by 2017. Sometime around 2020, cars will communicate with each other and alert drivers to roadside hazards ahead. The first generation of V2V systems would warn the driver but not take control of the car. Later implementations would improve to brake or steer around obstacles and eventually merge with self-driving cars.

ALG’s Lyman says that safety will be a big push in the connected car, but it’s not the only feature that may come to pass. In the future, you can expect vehicles that are not only connected to each other, but to the traffic signals − to improve efficiency, fuel usage and provide alternative routes if there is a traffic jam. Infotainment also will be a major focus, with cars able to tell you where to get the cheapest gas or where the closest ATM is.

Volvo for its part has committed to having 100 driverless cars on the road by 2017. Nissan has committed to having a totally autonomous car by 2020. “Part of the solution for a crash-free future can be the implementation of autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars,” Volvo’s Victor says. Not only will people be safer, but consumers also will be able to use their time more efficiently.

V2V would be a mesh network, meaning every node (car, smart traffic signal, etc.,) could send, capture and retransmit signals. Five to 10 hops on the network would gather traffic conditions a mile ahead, enough time for even the most distracted driver to take his foot off the gas. Automakers predict that a self-driving car, at least on highways, will be here by end 2020. It will still be limited by how far it can look ahead, both individually and through relays.

In the early days, if your car has V2V and the car in front of you without V2V panic-brakes, you’ve got to be on the ball. You may be helped if your car has forward collision warning, which often comes on cars with a lane departure warning camera. You may be bailed out if your car has adaptive cruise control. If both cars have V2V and you’re following closely, you’d be warned as the driver of the V2V car ahead comes off the gas, possibly as he brakes. When every car on the road has V2V controlling autonomous driving features, cars would automatically weave their way through intersections without the need for traffic lights. Cars would slow as needed to slip into a gap between crossing cars.

What V2V could track and report

  • Vehicle speed
  • Vehicle position and heading (direction of travel)
  • On or off the throttle (accelerating, driving, slowing)
  • Brakes on, anti-lock braking
  • Lane changes
  • Stability control, traction control engaged
  • Windshield wipers on, defroster on, headlamps on in daytime (raining, snowing)
  • Brakes on, anti-lock braking
  • Gear position (a car in reverse might be backing out of a parking stall)

Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) signs and signals could transmit traffic and weather indicators:

  • Traffic signal phase (green-yellow-red)
  • Stop sign
  • No left turn at intersection
  • Temperature (at a bridge that freezes over before the ground)
  • Signals from cars ahead
  • Approaching emergency vehicle

Multiple sensors on multiple cars give a truer picture of traffic ahead. If just one car has its wipers on, it’s likely the driver is cleaning the windshield or hit the lever by mistake; if the majority do, it’s raining or snowing. Sudden braking on a dry road combined with sudden steering inputs suggests an accident, stalled car, or obstacle on the roadway. If all the cars steer left, odds are the obstruction is in the right lane. When drivers are assisted by DSRC/V2V and autonomous driving technologies, it’s believed possible to double or quadruple the throughput of a roadway.

Machine systems at the wheel allow for closer following distances that are still safe and save fuel. Self-driving cars don’t brake hard then speed up, change lanes, speed up, then brake hard again, creating wave effects that ripple back the highway. V2V is supposed to besecure and anonymous. Suppose it’s not? If your car broadcasts its location and speed and it’s tracked, that could mean you’re vulnerable to speeding tickets. An interesting situation, n’est-ce pas?

Lane Departure Warning System

In road-transport terminology, a lane departure warning system is a mechanism designed to warn a driver when the vehicle begins to move out of its lane (unless a turn signal is on in that direction) on freeways and arterial roads. These systems are designed to minimize accidents by addressing the main causes of collisions: driver error, distractions and drowsiness.

There are two main types of systems:

  • Systems which warn the driver (lane departure warning, LDW) if the vehicle is leaving its lane (visual, audible, and/or vibration warnings).
  • Systems which warn the driver and, if no action is taken, automatically take steps to ensure the vehicle stays in its lane (lane keeping system, LKS).

LDW employs a simple camera that costs a few dollars. The camera plus processing software watch how close you are to road surface markings. It alerts you when you’re about to drift across, but only if your turn signal isn’t on. LDW has emerged as a key tool for driver safety, evolving over the last few years to a higher level of lane keep assist that automatically keeps the car centered on the road. The corrections are subtle and the driver can always override the car and turn the wheel manually.

LDW is part of the so-called circle of safety: adaptive cruise control pacing you against the car in front, lane departure warning watching ahead and to the side, blind spot detection watching for cars coming up in adjacent lanes, and rear parking sonar and a camera behind (sometimes on all four sides) watching behind when you’re backing up. Lane departure warning/lane keep assist is so good now, the best systems could keep you centered for miles and miles. It’s really a self-driving car at that point. All of them cut out after a few seconds if they detect no hands on the steering wheel.

How it Works: Windshield Camera Tracks Lane Markings

The most common LDW system is a camera mounted high up in the windshield, often as part of the rear view mirror mounting block. It captures a moving view of the road ahead. The digitized image is parsed for straight or dashed lines — the lane markings. As the driver, you’re supposed to center the car between the two lines. As the car deviates and approaches or reaches the lane marking, the driver gets a warning: a visual alert plus either an audible tone, a vibration in the steering wheel, or a vibration in the seat. If the turn signal is on, the car assumes the driver is intentionally crossing over the lane, and there’s no alert.

Then there’s lane keep assist. When the car reaches the lane marking, the car nudges itself away from the marker, like bouncing off the walls in Squash. Sometimes the steering change is effected by braking the opposite front wheel and the car pivots back into the lane. The car can also move you back by turning the steering wheel. This video is self explanatory.

Counterpoint: LDW Systems Increase Rate of Accidents

“The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is definitive: cars equipped with a lane change warning system are involved in accidents more often than others,” says Alain McKenna, an author at There is definitely a problem with this new technology – the gadget of the hour within the 2014 automotive industry. By using an audible (and sometimes visual) alarm to alert the driver of an un-signalled lane change, the warning system aims at doing quite the opposite. The IIHS, through its subsidiary IHDL (Highway Data Loss Institute), has found actual figures to support that vehicles equipped with such a device were more often involved in road accidents than vehicles that weren’t – a statistically significant difference, thus indicating that the system in question may be to blame for this situation.

For the IIHS, this is quite a turnaround, as it initially believed this new technology would have the potential to save American motorists about 7,500 collisions YoY. But, Buick and Mercedes-Benz vehicles equipped with this technology recorded respective 4 and 5 percent increases of the number of accidents in which they were involved. Interestingly, the Volvos the IIHS monitored via these calculations performed better than the average. Volvo states that this may be due to the second automated braking system it has paired this device with, which activates in case of imminent collision.

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (ESC), also referred to as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC), is a computerized program that improves a vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing skidding. When ESC detects loss of steering control, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to wheels individually, such as the outer front wheel to counter over-steer or the inner rear wheel to counter under-steer. Some ESC systems also reduce engine power until control is regained. ESC does not improve a vehicle’s cornering performance; instead, it helps to minimize the loss of control. According to IIHS and the NHTSA, one-third of fatal accidents could be prevented by the use of the technology.

An IIHS News release of June 13, 2006 states that Electronic Stability Control could prevent nearly one-third of all fatal crashes and reduce rollover risk by as much as 80 percent. The new research confirms that ESC reduces the risk of all single-vehicle crashes by more than 40 percent — fatal ones by 56 percent. The researchers estimate that if all vehicles were equipped with ESC, as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year. ESC is fitted on all new cars bought starting 1 January 2012. In the EU, all new cars bought on or after 1 January 2014 will have ESC.

During normal driving, ESC works in the background and continuously monitors steering and vehicle direction. It compares the driver’s intended direction (determined through the measured steering wheel angle) to the vehicle’s actual direction (determined through measured lateral acceleration, vehicle rotation (yaw), and individual road wheel speeds).

ESC intervenes only when it detects a probable loss of steering control, i.e. when the vehicle is not going where the driver is steering. This may happen, for example, when skidding during emergency evasive swerves, under-steer or over-steer during poorly judged turns on slippery roads, or hydroplaning. ESC may also intervene in an unwanted way during high-performance driving, because steering input may not always be directly indicative of the intended direction of travel (i.e., controlled drifting). ESC estimates the direction of the skid, and then applies the brakes to individual wheels asymmetrically in order to create torque about the vehicle’s vertical axis, opposing the skid and bringing the vehicle back in line with the driver’s commanded direction. Additionally, the system may reduce engine power or operate the transmission to slow the vehicle down.

ESC can work on any surface, from dry pavement to frozen lakes. It reacts to and corrects skidding much faster and more effectively than the typical human driver, often before the driver is even aware of any imminent loss of control. In fact, this led to some concern that ESC could allow drivers to become overconfident in their vehicle’s handling and/or their own driving skills. For this reason, ESC systems typically inform the driver when they intervene, so that the driver knows that the vehicle’s
handling limits have been approached.

ESC has many sub-systems. Two are Traction Control and Skid Control.

  • Traction Control minimizes the spinning of driving wheels by cutting down engine power and/or applying the brakes as necessary.
  • Skid Control keeps the vehicle stable, especially in emergency situations such as when you need to suddenly steer to avoid an obstacle.

ESC incorporates yaw rate control into the anti-lock braking system (ABS). Yaw is a rotation around the vertical axis; i.e. spinning left or right. While anti-lock brakes enable ESC to brake individual wheels, ESC achieves a different purpose than ABS or Traction Control.

The sensors used for ESC have to send data at all times in order to detect possible defects as soon as possible. They have to be resistant to possible forms of interference (rain, holes in the road, etc.). All inputs are sent to the brain of the ESC system, a digital electronic control unit (ECU), which sends various commands to different components. The most important sensors are:

  • Steering wheel angle sensor: determines the driver’s intended rotation; i.e. where the driver wants to steer. This kind of sensor is often based on AMR-elements.
  • Yaw rate sensor: measures the rotation rate of the car; i.e. how much the car is actually turning. The data from the yaw sensor is compared with the data from the steering wheel angle sensor to determine regulating action.
  • Lateral acceleration sensor: often an accelerometer
  • Wheel speed sensor: measures the wheel speed.

Most vehicles include an “ESC OFF” button to disable Traction Control when the vehicle is stuck in fresh snow, mud or sand; or is being operated with snow chains; off road in deep snow or sand; or with the compact spare tire.

This video makes the system easy to understand.

Automatic Crash Notification

Automatic Crash Notification (ACN) technology is typically part of vehicle telematic systems, (VTS) which involve the transmission of data communications between systems and in-field devices. The ACN component of VTSs are particularly important, given that it enables vehicles to automatically notify a call center in the event of a crash. An ACN system consists of the four following components: sensors (typically located at the front and side of the vehicle); the Sensing Diagnostic Module (SDM, which includes an event data recorder and accelerometer); the Vehicle Communication and Interface Module (VCIM) and a cellular antenna.

When a car crashes, sensors transmit information to the SDM. The SDM then sends information about the crash severity to the VCIM, which uses the cellular antenna to send a message to the call center. When a phone operator receives the message, he/she uses the system’s GPS to identify the vehicle’s location and attempts to make contact with the driver. If there is no response, the operator will contact emergency medical services (EMS) on their behalf. The same process also takes place upon airbag deployment.

Although OnStar is a well-known VTS due to its installation in General Motors vehicles in North America, other similar systems including ACN have been developed, including BMW Assist, Mercedes- Benz Tele Aid and Ford’s VEMS/RESCU system.

The Potential for ACN to Reduce the Crash-to-EMS Notification Time

ACN systems may lead to shorter time periods between crash occurrence and delivery of a casualty to a medical fatality, due to the rapid crash-to-EMS notification phase. This phase consists of three sequential components, i.e., the decision, contact and call periods. The decision period begins with the moment of injury and ends when the driver, passenger or a witness realizes that professional medical aid is required. The contact period is defined by the time taken from when the decision is made to contact EMS to when a landline telephone, cellular phone, or other communications equipment is located. The length of time consumed by the actual process of contacting and speaking to an EMS operator is known as the call period.

The decision and contact periods could be therefore be greatly reduced by an ACN, whilst the possibility of a miscommunication occurring in regards to the vehicle location or the severity of the crash within the call period would also be negated. A study in 1999 reported that ACN can reduce the crash-to-EMS notification time to one minute, with 100 percent market penetration of the system.

The Time-Dependence of Road Crash Injuries

The time-dependence of trauma from road crashes is well accepted within medical literature. For example, it has been estimated that from the approximate number of 42,000 crash deaths that occur in the U.S. each year, nearly 20,000 die before receiving hospital treatment, and that many of the remaining 22,000 die after reaching a hospital too late to be saved. Within the medical field the ‘golden hour’ has been posited, which suggests that the first sixty minutes after a multiple trauma injury is sustained are crucial, with mortality rates increasing by up to 50 percent if restorative care is not administered within this timeframe. A number of studies have also investigated the link between road trauma fatalities and EMS response times, with one study in 1995 reporting that amongst 848 trauma cases, response times were significantly shorter (3.5 ± 1.2 minutes) for ‘unexpected survivors’ than for ‘unexpected fatalities’ (5.4 ± 4.3 minutes).

Differences exist between urban and rural areas in Crash-to-EMS notification times. Since ACN has an important safety impact on accident fatalities by enabling casualties to reach vital medical aid sooner, a distinction has been drawn between urban and rural areas regarding the time from crash occurrence to hospital arrival. The mean times are longer for rural areas simply due to their remoteness. In crashes where all occupants are incapacitated and are unable to contact EMS, it can often take much longer for a passer-by to notice the crash scene and to subsequently contact EMS, affecting chances of survival greatly.

Advanced Automatic Crash Notification (AACN) & Vehicular Emergency Data Set (VEDS)

The U.S. has moved a step ahead; the erstwhile ACN is now an Advanced ACN, or AACN. VTS is now part of Vehicular Emergency Data Set (VEDS). The VEDS uses the Extensible Markup Language (XML) open standard and conforms to the National Information Exchange Model as a common data exchange format to provide a consistent method of data exchange. The intent of the VEDS document is to establish a uniform data set for the transmissions and collection of AACN data that will be used in data transfer pilots/demos by all Telematics Service Providers (TSPs) and target recipient agencies including 9-1-1 PSAP Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), emergency responders, and medical facilities capable of providing trauma level patient care. The analysis of the data collected will assist in identifying the efficiency and effectiveness of the dataset when used by pilot participants and whether further modifications to the VEDS are necessary.

Beyond basic notification of airbag deployment and GPS satellite-based location of the vehicle, AACN entails the aggregation of in-vehicle crash sensor data to better inform emergency responders prior to their arrival at the accident scene as to the potential severity of the crash and the likelihood of severe injuries to the vehicle’s occupants. AACN information was recently included in the federal guidelines for field trials of injured patients. These guidelines are designed to help responders at the accident scene identify the potential existence of severe internal injuries and to make critical decisions about how and where a patient needs to be transported. TSPs also are able to provide responders with a detailed description of the vehicle, emergency contacts provided by the vehicle owner and whether crash sensors indicate the vehicle was involved in a rollover, which may influence what kinds of resources are dispatched to the scene.

Blind Spot Monitoring

A blind spot monitor is a vehicle-based sensor device that detects other vehicles located to the driver’s side and rear, areas where the driver may not be in a position to monitor. Warnings can be visual, audible, vibrating or tactile. However, blind spot monitors are an option that may include more than monitoring the sides of the vehicle. It can include “Cross Traffic Alert,” which alerts drivers backing out of a parking space when traffic is approaching from the sides.

George Platzer, in a 1995 paper presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers, proved there is no blind spot on the sides if side view mirrors are properly adjusted in a car. The method is often overlooked in drivers’ education classes, and takes some getting used to. Calculated elimination of blind spots by trained drivers is cheap, and obviates expensive technological solutions to that problem, provided drivers take the time to set up and use their mirrors properly. That said, there is no way a driver can see a child’s pram parked too close to its tail lamp, or small children playing there.

Blind spot detection is a key technology among driver aids that provide 360° of electronic coverage around your car, whether you are at speed or moving slowly. This circle of safety also includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear and front parking sonar, the rear traffic alert, and parking cameras (ranging from rear-only through four cameras providing a birds-eye view of the car as you snake into and out of tight spaces). Some driver’s aids make you safer, especially late on a long drive, and some earn back their cost when you don’t crumple a usurious fender.

Although nearly every automaker is different, blind spot monitors generally work the same way. As you drive along, they monitor the lanes to your left and right, especially the spots over your shoulder that you might have trouble seeing. When a car enters your blind spot, most monitors alert the driver to its presence. Usually, this is done with a light on the outside door mirror. For example, a car in the passenger-side blind spot activates the light on the passenger-side mirror. In most cases, the blind spot monitors don’t need to do any further work, since they’ve already alerted you to the car’s presence.

However, if you turn on your signal while a car is in your blind spot, the monitors usually send a more urgent signal to let you know it isn’t the right time to make a lane change. In some cases, this is done with a flashing red light; other times, it’s a chime you can easily hear. Some cars use cameras.

A Honda equipped with the brand’s LaneWatch system will display a large image of everything that’s happening in your passenger-side blind spot on the center screen if you put on your turn signal.

The Ford Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), developed by Volvo, detects when a vehicle enters a blind spot on one of the car’s sides and alerts the driver through a LED warning light, in the corresponding exterior mirror. Ford BLIS uses two high-tech multi-beam radars, which are mounted in the corners of the rear bumper.

This allows the system to individually monitor each side of the vehicle it is installed on. The range extends from the wing mirror to about three meters behind the rear bumper and covers approximately three meters on either side of the car. The application has been engineered to become operational from speeds as low as 6mph (10 kph), thus being useful in busy urban traffic and also for highway traffic jams. Ford’s video shows the Blind Spot Information System in action.

Roll Over Protection

How do rollovers happen? Given the right circumstances, any vehicle can roll over. However, tall, narrow vehicles such as SUVs, pickups, and vans are more susceptible than traditional cars are because they have a higher center of gravity and thus are more top-heavy. Sideways forces that develop when a vehicle rounds a curve shifts the center of gravity to one side, dramatically affecting the vehicle’s balance. The lateral forces increase with speed and also with rapid changes of direction−for example, when a driver makes too sharp a turn one way and then overcorrects the other way. Such transitions can set up a pendulum effect, with wild uncontrollable swings and an eventual loss of control.

The tire grip plays a paradoxical role in rollovers. Ideally, your vehicle would stay on course, gripping the road with all four wheels on the ground, no matter what. But too much tire grip can allow excessive sideways forces to build up until the vehicle flips over. Before that happens, you want the vehicle to gradually and predictably lose some lateral grip. Sliding is better than tipping over, but that too can put the vehicle at risk of hitting something during the slide, and then rolling anyway. One cheap way that automakers make an SUV less prone to rollover is to equip it with less-grippy tires. That can help prevent some rollovers but is obviously a less-than-ideal solution since tire traction keeps you on the road and affects stopping distances. There is more to lose than gain.

Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS) refers to operator compartment structures (usually cabs or frames) intended to protect equipment operators and motorists from injuries caused by vehicle overturns or rollovers. Commonly found on heavy equipment (i.e., tractors), earthmoving machinery and UTVs used in construction, agriculture and mining, ROPS structures are defined by various regulatory agencies. In the U.S., it is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Tractor rollover has become one of the leading causes of occupational death in the agricultural industry. In the United States from 1992 to 2005, 1412 workers were killed from tractor rollover, with roughly 10,000 suffering an injury. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, believes that ROPS and proper seat belt use on tractors can eliminate nearly all fatalities caused by tractor and lawn mower overturns. Without a seatbelt, the rider may be thrown from the tractor during the overturn, and thus left unprotected by the ROPS. NIOSH estimates that fatality rates from tractor overturns could be reduced by a minimum of 71%, if all tractors were equipped with ROPS. A study in Sweden confirms this averment, with the fatality rate from rollover falling significantly, to near-zero.

An active rollover protection (ARP), is a system that recognizes impending rollover and selectively applies brakes to resist. ARP builds on Electronic stability control and its three chassis control systems already on the vehicle – Anti-lock braking system, traction control and yaw control. ARP adds another function: detection of an impending rollover. Excessive lateral force, generated by excessive speed in a turn, may result in a rollover. ARP automatically responds whenever it detects a potential rollover. ARP rapidly applies the brakes with a high burst of pressure to the appropriate wheels and sometimes decreases the engine torque to interrupt the rollover before it occurs.

Some automobile models have begun to adopt the phrase, substituting system for structure in the ROPS acronym, notably the Volvo C70 convertible models, and Jaguar XK. Their ROPS structures consist of two pyrotechnically charged roll hoops hidden behind the rear seats that will pop up in the case of a roll-over to protect the occupants. If the roof is up, the system will still work, shattering the rear window at the same time.

The New Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet has an active roll-over protection system behind the rear head restraints. It works with the reinforced windscreen frame to provide extra crash protection for all occupants. At the heart of the system are sensors which constantly monitor the car’s progress. Should they detect the risk of a rollover or impact, a dual-lever release system automatically turns the rear head restraints into a pair of robust rollover bars. These bars are housed in special cassettes bolted to the luggage compartment wall behind the rear seats. Once activated, they shoot upwards and are securely locked into place within 0.25 seconds.

Tripped Rollovers

NHTSA data show that 95 percent of single-vehicle rollovers are tripped. This usually happens when a vehicle leaves the roadway and slides sideways, digging its tires into soft soil or striking an object such as a curb or guardrail. The high tripping force applied to the tires in these situations can cause the vehicle to roll over.

Types of tripped rollovers:

  • Soft Soil. The driver of a pickup truck traveling down a 2-lane highway at a high rate of speed veers off the right side of the road, attempts to recover by steering too sharply to the left and causes the vehicle to roll over as its wheels dig into the soft soil. Curbs, soft soil/shoulders, guardrails, pavement surface discontinuities, snow banks, or other objects can cause tripping.
  • Guardrail. The driver of a passenger car traveling down a 2-lane highway at a highlight rate of speed veers off the right side of the road, attempts to avoid the guardrail by steering to the right. The left front portion of the car rides up the guardrail in a ramp-like fashion, causing the vehicle to become airborne and rollover. Tripping can also occur when a vehicle is traveling forward, typically at a high speed. If one side of the vehicle rides up on an object, like a guardrail, it may be forced to roll over.
  • Steep Slope. A sports utility vehicle traveling very slowly in an off-road environment begins to pick up speed as it rides down a steep hill. The driver misjudges the steepness of the hill as a turn to the right is attempted. The vehicle rolls over and tumbles down the hill. Tripping can also occur on severe slopes in off-road situations. If an incline’s slope is too steep to keep the vehicle upright, it can topple over.

Preventing and Surviving a Rollover

When seen in terms of rollover-fatalities per million registered vehicles, all vehicle types have improved, and SUVs have improved the most. According to the IIHS, the rollover driver-death rate among newer (1 to 3 year old) passenger vehicles dropped from 27 in the year 2000 to 6 in 2012. The newest SUVs have lower rates than the newest cars.

  • Newer is better. The improvement might be because more people are buckling up, or because vehicles have better build quality and safety systems, but it’s probably a result of both. Either way, it makes sense to choose a vehicle with the most up-to-date safety systems. Especially important are electronic stability control and side-curtain air bags.
  • Wear safety belts. Belts help keep you in the seat so you are not tossed around in a rollover crash.
  • Check the tires. Make sure all the tires are in good shape and properly inflated to the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Watch the load. Overloading any vehicle, particularly SUVs and pickups, decreases its stability. The worst practice is to place heavy loads on the roof.
  • Watch your speed. Speed makes a vehicle’s tendencies to roll over more severe.

Warning and Emergency Braking Systems

Emergency brake assist (EBA) or Brake Assist (BA or BAS) stands for any automobile braking technology that increases braking pressure in an emergency situation. A 1992 Mercedes-Benz research
revealed that more than 90 percent of drivers fail to brake with enough force in emergency situations.

By interpreting the speed and force with which the brake pedal is pushed, the system detects if the driver is trying to execute an emergency stop, and if the brake pedal is not fully applied, the system overrides and fully applies the brakes until the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) takes over to stop the wheels locking up.

Bosch, Germany claims that its Predictive Emergency Braking System (PEBS) makes driving safer. Lack of concentration when driving in traffic could have serious consequences. At speeds over 30 kph (18 mph), the PEBS warns the driver at an early stage if there is a risk of collision and, if necessary, provides active braking support. If the collision is unavoidable, the system reduces impact speed and is therefore able to mitigate the consequences of the crash. It is essentially a modified collision avoidance system.

In order to reduce the risk of a rear-end collision or mitigate the consequences of such a collision, the PEBS, based on the networking of a radar sensor with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) or Electronic Stability Control (ESC), continuously analyzes the traffic ahead. The PEBS becomes live as soon as the vehicle is started, and supports the driver at all speeds — both by day and by night. That doesn’t absolve the driver from his responsibility to pay attention and drive carefully.

When the PEBS detects that the distance to the preceding vehicle is becoming critically short at a vehicle speed above 30 km/h (18 mph), it prepares the braking system for potential emergency braking. Thus, full braking power is available to the driver valuable hundredths of seconds earlier. If the driver fails to react to the critical situation and the PEBS detects that the vehicle is continuing to approach the vehicle ahead, the system warns the driver by means of a visual and/or audible signal followed by a brief but clearly perceptible brake jerk. The driver is made aware of the immediate risk of a collision and can react earlier to potentially avoid the rear-end collision by braking or by an avoidance maneuver.

The time at which the warning is given is based on the required stopping distance and average motorist reaction time. When making the calculation, the system can also take into account whether the driver is active or inactive and must therefore be warned earlier. Valuable time can pass before a driver reacts to a critical situation. The PEBS can use this time effectively: Following the collision warning, it can initiate partial braking in the detected rear-end collision situation. This intervention decelerates the vehicle and gives the driver more time to react.

As soon as the driver presses the brake pedal, the system provides braking support. To do this, the system continuously calculates the degree of vehicle deceleration needed to avoid the collision. When the PEBS detects that the driver is not breaking hard enough, it increases the braking pressure to the required level so that the driver can attempt to bring the vehicle to a standstill before a collision occurs .

Should the driver fail to react at all to the immediate risk of collision and the PEBS detects that a rear-end collision is unavoidable, it can automatically initiate full braking. As a result, the vehicle is traveling considerably slower when the collision occurs, reducing the severity of the crash for the passengers of both vehicles. The initiation of full braking calls for superior object recognition and collision risk assessment capabilities. For this reason, the radar sensor is supplemented by an additional surround sensor, such as a video camera. This kit is on the expensive side.

A: If the system detects a critical approach to the vehicle ahead and the driver does not react, it prepares the braking system for emergency braking and warns the driver.
B: Following the collision warning, the system initiates partial braking to reduce the speed and give the driver valuable time to react.
C: If the driver presses the brake pedal, braking support is provided as necessary.
D: If the driver does not react and the system assesses the collision to be unavoidable, it initiates full braking in order to mitigate the consequences of the crash.

Car Seatbelts

Researches conducted by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration have revealed that seatbelts save approximately 13,000 lives in the U.S. each year. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that 7,000 U.S. car accident fatalities would have been avoided if the victims had been wearing belts. They also believe that seatbelts reduce the risk of death for a front seat car occupant by about 50 percent. So how does a piece of fabric end up being the difference between life and death?

If a car is moving along at 50 mph (80 kph), it has a certain amount of inertia. As an occupant, you are also moving along at the same speed, and possess your own inertia. If you slam into a barricade and the car comes to a dead stop, your inertia propels you forwards at 50 mph. The driver will slam into his steering column, the front seat occupant(s) into the windscreen and the rear seat occupants into the front seat. The injuries sustained could bear a heavy cost−your life. Something must restrain you from moving forward-your seatbelt. A seatbelt applies the stopping force to more durable parts of the body over a longer period of time, generally leaving you unscathed.

A typical seatbelt consists of a lap belt, which rests over your pelvis, and a shoulder belt, which extends across your chest. The two belt sections are tightly secured to the frame of the car in order to hold passengers in their seats. A correctly worn belt will apply most of the stopping force to the rib cage and the pelvis, which are relatively sturdy parts of the body. Since the belts extend across a wide section of your body, the force isn’t concentrated in a small area, so it can’t do as much damage. Additionally, the seatbelt webbing is made of more flexible material than the dashboard or windshield. It stretches a little bit, which means the stop isn’t quite so abrupt. The seatbelt shouldn’t give more than a little, however, or you might bang into the steering wheel or side window. Of the many components of a seat belt, the pretensioner is the most important.

The pretensioner tightens up any slack in the belt webbing in the event of a crash. While the conventional locking mechanism keeps the belt from extending any farther, the pretensioner actually pulls in on the belt. This force helps move the passenger into the optimum crash position in his or her seat. Pretensioners normally work together with conventional locking mechanisms, not in place of them. Generally, pretensioners are wired to the same central control processor that activates the car’s air bags, where the processor gets the system going when it senses a sudden deceleration. It activates the pretensioner first and then the air bag.

In severe crashes, when a car collides with an obstacle at extremely high speed, a seatbelt can inflict serious damage, as the restraining force applied to the body is very high. This is prevented by using load limiters like a small fold stitched to the seat belt which is ripped open on impact and provides a certain amount of give. Over the years, technology will no doubt improve the material and operating systems of seat belts to make it as close to failsafe as possible.

Restraint Device : Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) Airbag

Possibly the most important safety innovation of recent decades has been the Airbag. They provide crucial cushioning for people during a crash. The devices are normally hidden from view but inflate instantly when a crash begins. Frontal airbags are mandatory in all new passenger vehicles since 1999. Side airbags aren’t specifically mandated, but nearly all manufacturers include them as standard equipment in order to meet federal side protection requirements. These devices have slashed the highway death toll.

What are airbags?

Airbags are cushions built into a vehicle that guard occupants from hitting the vehicle interior or objects outside the vehicle (for example, other vehicles or trees) during a collision. They are supplemental restraints and are designed to work best in combination with safety belts to enhance passenger safety in certain types of collisions. All kinds of airbags have been developed and adopted, including Driver’s side Airbag (1989), Passenger side Airbag (1992), Side Airbag (1996), Side Curtain Airbag (1998) and Knee Airbag (2002).

In the case of the SRS Airbag (Driver’s side), a sensor will detect the impact, calculate the collision intensity and deploy the airbag. The time it takes for the airbag to finish deploying is approximately 0.03 seconds. That deployed airbag will deflate and the total time it takes is about 0.1 seconds. The human eye blinks for about 0.1 -0.3 seconds. For this reason, some who have been near an airbag deployment report they didn’t see the airbag expand because it happens so rapidly.

The instant a crash begins, sensors start to measure impact severity. If the crash is severe enough, the sensors signal inflators to fill the bags with gas in a fraction of a second. The speed of a deploying airbag can reach up to 200 mph. Airbags are designed to offer the most protection when occupants are buckled up and sitting properly in the seat. To determine the locations of airbags within a vehicle, look for the word “airbag” or “SRS” (supplemental restraint system) components of the vehicle interior. These labels may be stamped into plastic or stitched into fabric.

Frontal airbags: Most vehicles on the road today have airbags that deploy in frontal crashes to protect the heads and chests of front-seat occupants. The driver airbag is stowed in the steering wheel. The passenger airbag is stored in the instrument panel.

Some manufacturers provide knee airbags, mounted in the lower instrument panel. Knee airbags distribute impact forces to reduce leg injuries. They also help reduce forces on an occupant’s chest and abdomen by controlling movement of the occupant’s lower body.

Side airbags: Most recent models also have airbags that deploy in side-impact crashes. Side airbags deploy from the vehicle seatback, door or roof to protect front- and sometimes rear-seat occupants. Side airbags cushion and spread the load of these impacts to prevent any part of the body from sustaining concentrated impact forces. Side airbags that offer head protection are particularly important because they may be the only thing between an occupant’s head and the front of a vehicle, a tree or other object, or the ground in the event of a rollover.

Some side airbag systems protect only the head, and a few protect only the torso. Ideally, vehicles should have protection for both. Head-protecting airbags may extend into the rear seating area. Rear seats may also have head-protecting side airbags separate from those in the front seat or airbags that provide torso protection.

Both frontal and side airbags save lives. Frontal airbags reduce driver fatalities in frontal crashes by 29 percent and fatalities of front-seat passengers age 13 and older by 32 percent. Side airbags that protect the head reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37 percent and an SUV driver’s risk by 52 percent.

Engineers keep finding new ways to use airbags. Some vehicles now have rear-window curtain airbags to protect people in back seats or front-center airbags to keep drivers and front-seat passengers from hitting each other in a crash. There are also inflatable safety belts aimed at reducing rear-seat injuries.

Charts 23 and 24 show lives saved and could have been saved 2008-12. In 2012, the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,174 lives. Seat belts have saved nearly 63,000 lives during the 5-year-period from 2008 to 2012. In addition to the 12,174 lives saved in 2012 by seat belts (occupants 5 and older), 2,213 lives were saved by frontal air bags (occupants 13 and older), 525 lives were saved by 21-year-old-minimum-drinking-age laws, and 284 lives (4 and younger) were saved by child restraints (child safety seats and lap/shoulder belts). An additional 3,031 lives would have been saved in 2012 if all unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older involved in fatal crashes had worn their seat belts.

Research has found that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45% and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%. Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.”

The chart also shows that the number of lives saved by seat belts among occupants 5 and older increased from 11,983 in 2011 to 12,174 in 2012, and is expected to increase even as the number of accidents should peak by 2020, purely due to the massive increases in the numbers of vehicles on the roads and reduce thereafter.

General Information:

  • Both frontal and side-impact air bags are designed to deploy in moderate to severe crashes.
  • Air bags reduce the chance that an occupant’s upper body or head will strike the vehicle’s interior during a crash.
  • To avoid an air bag-related injury, always ensure proper seating position.
  • Read your owner’s manual for specific information about the air bags in your vehicle

Airbag Deployment

  • When there is a moderate to severe crash, a signal is sent from the air bag system’s electronic control unit to the inflator within the air bag module.
  • An igniter in the inflator starts a chemical reaction that produces a harmless gas, which inflates the air bag within the blink of an eye – or less than 1/20th of a second.
  • Side-impact air bags inflate even more quickly since there is less space between the occupant and the striking object, such as the interior of the vehicle, another vehicle, a tree, or a pole.
  • Because air bags deploy very rapidly, serious or sometimes fatal injuries can occur if the occupant is too close to – or is in direct contact with – the air bag when it first begins to deploy.
  • Sitting as far back from the steering wheel or dashboard as possible and using seat belts help prevent occupants from being “too close” to a deploying frontal air bag.
  • Up until recently, nontoxic cornstarch or talcum powder was commonly used to lubricate air bag fabrics and aid in deployment. While these lubricants may sometimes appear to be “smoke” when released during deployment, they are actually harmless substances.
  • Most of today’s air bag fabrics and coatings (i.e., silicone) are sufficiently “slippery” that additional powder-like lubricants aren’t necessary.
  • Exceptions include some heavily coated side curtain air bags developed for rollover crash protection; these air bags may still be lubricated with talcum powder, which could potentially appear as “smoke” when these air bags inflate.

After Airbag Deployment

  • The air bag automatically deflates as the gas escapes through vents in the fabric of the air bag. Air bags cannot smother drivers or passengers, and don’t restrict occupant movement after a crash.
  • Generally, the whole process of air bag inflation and deflation is complete in less than one second.
  • Rollover crashes are longer events than frontal or side-impact crashes, so those air bags that are designed to provide rollover protection are also designed to remain inflated longer.
  • The powdery starch or talcum substance released when some air bags deploy may initially contain small amounts of sodium hydroxide, which may cause some temporary minor irritation to an occupant’s eyes or throat.
  • Other minor injuries to occupants may include abrasions from contact with the fabric of the air bag.
  • Air bags cannot be reused; they are single-use safety restraints.
  • To ensure the continued protection of occupants, used air bags should be replaced without delay by an authorized repair center – before the vehicle is driven again.

The Airbag Module

The airbag control module is also known as the airbag sensor, diagnostic unit, computer module, 591 and other names. They are mounted in different locations throughout the vehicle. Some common places are under the driver and passenger seat, center console, kick panel, under radios and behind the steering column. The airbag control module is good until a deployment occurs. However, most modules can be reset.

  • The air bag module consists of the air bag and its inflators.
  • In a moderate to severe crash, the inflators fill the air bag with harmless gas to create a cushion-like restraint that helps protect an occupant from striking the vehicle’s interior.
  • The driver frontal air bag is located in the hub of the steering wheel.
  • The passenger frontal air bag is located in the instrument panel, more commonly known as the dashboard.
  • Side-impact air bags can be located in the seat back, the door or the overhead roof rail.

Crash Sensors

  • Crash sensors collect the data necessary to make decisions about air bag deployment.
  • Crash sensors measure how quickly a vehicle slows down in a frontal crash or accelerates to the side in a side-impact crash. Some vehicles are equipped with a sensing system designed to detect the onset of a rollover crash.
  • Frontal crash sensors may be located in the front of the vehicle near the engine, in the passenger compartment, or sometimes in the electronic control unit (ECU).
  • Side-impact crash sensors may be located in the ECU, the door, the doorsill, or between the front and rear doors.
  • Rollover crash sensors may be located in the ECU or at the vehicle’s center of gravity.
  • Severe or panic braking alone cannot cause an air bag to deploy; air bags deploy only in crashes.

The Electronic Control Unit

  • The electronic control unit (ECU) acts like the brain of the air bag system: it receives signals from the various sensors (such as crash sensors) and decides if and when each air bag should deploy.
  • The ECU is typically located in the middle of the vehicle or beneath the front seat, where it is well protected.
  • In vehicles equipped with advanced air bag systems, the ECU can also receive input from additional sensors that detect occupant weight, seating position, seat belt use, and seat position to determine the force with which frontal air bags should deploy.

The ECU also performs regular diagnostic checks of the air bag system. If the ECU identifies a problem, the air bag readiness (warning) light will illuminate on the instrument panel. When the air bag readiness light is illuminated, the air bag system might not perform properly in a crash.

Auto safety has evolved from basic seatbelts and lighting to high-tech safety features that can help drivers avoid accidents altogether. Thanks to continuing innovation, today’s vehicles are the safest in history and have contributed to year-over-year decreases in crash-related fatalities and injuries nationwide. Watch this video for more details.

Different Types of Airbags

Shoppers interested in a new car now think gravely about car safety. In modern cars, safety means airbags. While there were only a few types of airbags just 10 years ago, modern cars sometimes include more than a dozen — and it can be difficult to sort out which airbags do what.

Side Airbags

Side airbags protect you from a side impact. Of course, it isn’t that simple. Modern cars generally offer two types of side airbags. The first type is torso airbags, which are usually found in the side of seats. As their name suggests, they protect your torso from a collision. Most cars only have these in the front seats, though some luxury models offer them in the back, as well.

The other common side airbag is the curtain airbag. This airbag is more important than the torso airbag, since it deploys from the car’s ceiling to protect your head. Usually, curtain airbags cover front and rear seats, though they also can protect third-row passengers in some larger vehicles .

Side airbags aren’t limited to torso and curtain airbags. General Motors recently rolled out a new side airbag in its Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave SUVs. Dubbed the “front center airbag,” this new airbag is between the front seats and protects occupants from a collision on the opposite side of the car.

Front Airbags

Dual front airbags are mandated on all cars sold in the United States. That’s been true since 1995, though a few popular models went an extra few years before adding them. In large part, however, most new and used cars will have dual front airbags.

In a collision, the driver’s airbag comes from the steering wheel, while the passenger’s airbag deploys from the dashboard. Many new cars have a weight sensor for the front passenger seat that will prevent the airbag from deploying if a small child is sitting there. For older cars without a weight sensor, the airbag’s force can cause injury in younger children. As a result, the government suggests that children under 13 should ride in the back seat.

Knee Airbags

Many automakers now have knee airbags to improve car safety. While it may seem unusual to have an airbag devoted to your knee, these airbags can prevent serious injury. The reason is that they deploy under a car’s dashboard, stopping front seat occupants’ knees from hitting the hard surface. This can prevent kneecaps from shattering, which is a common injury in high-speed frontal collisions.

Inflatable Seat Belt

Ford recently introduced an entirely new airbag that isn’t really an airbag at all. The brand’s inflatable seat belt functions like an airbag by deploying in an accident. But while most airbags cushion passengers, the inflatable seat belt instead helps spread an accident’s force over a wider area on a person’s body. The result is that the accident doesn’t feel as severe, since the force isn’t as highly concentrated. Inflatable seat belts are available only for rear seat passengers in the Ford Explorer, though the brand says the technology will spread soon to other models throughout its lineup.

Air Bag Deactivation: What You Need to Know to Make an Informed Decision

Air bags are proven and effective safety devices. The number of lives saved increases each year, as air bags become more common in vehicles on our roads. However, the number of lives saved is not the whole story.

Air bags are particularly effective in preventing life-threatening and debilitating head and chest injuries. A study of real-world crashes conducted by NHTSA found that the combination of seat belts and air bags is 75% effective in preventing serious head injuries and 66% effective in preventing serious chest injuries. That means 75 of every 100 people who would have suffered a serious head injury in a crash, and 66 out of 100 people who would have suffered chest injuries, were spared that fate because they wore seat belts and their vehicle had air bags.

For some people, these life saving and injury-preventing benefits come at the cost of a less severe injury caused by the air bag itself. Most air bag injuries are minor cuts, bruises, or abrasions and are far less serious than the skull fractures and brain injuries that air bags prevent. However, eight people have been killed by air bags up until June 1, 2001. These deaths are tragic, but rare events.

The one fact common to all who died as a result of the air bag is NOT their height, weight, sex, or age. It is the fact that they were too close to the air bag when it started to deploy.

People can easily avoid being too close to an air bag and minimize the risk of air bag injury by making simple changes in behavior. Shorter drivers can adjust their driving position. Front-seat adult passengers can sit a safe distance from their air bag. Infants and children age 12 and under should sit in the back seat. And everyone must buckle up. All states have legislation that require all occupants of a vehicle to wear seat belts and children to be positioned in appropriate child seats. The limited number of people who cannot make these changes may benefit from having the opportunity to turn off their air bags when necessary.

Consumers can choose to have the air bags in their vehicle deactivated if they are, or a user of their vehicle is, in a risk group. In most cases, air bags will be deactivated through the use of an on-off switch installed by your dealer or other service technician. In some cases, other forms of deactivation will be provided. The following information provides the data you need so you can make an informed decision.

Who should consider deactivating their air bags?

  • People who have no option but to transport infants riding in rear-facing infant seats in the front passenger seat.
  • People who have no option but to transport children age 12 and under in the front passenger seat.
  • Drivers who cannot change their customary driving position and keep 10” (25 cm) between the center of the steering wheel, where the driver-side air bag is located, and the center of their breastbone.
  • People whose doctors say that, due to their medical condition, the air bag poses a special risk that outweighs the risk of hitting their head, neck or chest in a crash if the air bag is turned off.

Usually, if you do not meet at least one of these criteria, nor does any user or occupant of your vehicle, then there is no reason for you to even consider the installation of an on-off switch. Turning off your air bag will not benefit you nor the other users of your vehicle, but increase the risk that you and the other users will suffer a head, neck or chest injury by violently striking the steering wheel or dashboard in a moderate to severe crash.

What is an on-off switch?

An on-off switch allows an air bag to be turned on and off and can be installed for the driver, passenger, or both. To limit misuse, a key must be used to operate the on-off switch. When the air bag is turned off, a light comes on. There is a warning on or near the light saying “DRIVER AIR BAG OFF” or “PASSENGER AIR BAG OFF.” The air bag will remain off until the key is used to turn it back on .

How can you reduce air bag risk without installing an on-off switch?

  • Always place an infant in a rear-facing infant seat in the back seat.
  • Always transport children 12 years old and under in the back seat and use appropriate and properly installed child restraints.
  • Always buckle your seat belt.
  • Keep 10” (25 cm) between the center of the air bag cover and the center of your sternum.

How do air bag deaths occur?

To perform well, an air bag must deploy quickly. The force is greatest in the first 5 in (8 cm) after the air bag bursts through its cover and begins to inflate. Those 5” are the “risk zone.” The force decreases as the air bag inflates farther.

Occupants who are very close to or on top of the air bag when it begins to inflate can be hit with enough force to suffer serious or fatal injuries. However, occupants who are properly restrained and sit 10” away from the air bag cover will contact the air bag only after it has completely or almost completely inflated. The air bag then will absorb the kinetic energy of the occupants and protect them from hitting the hard surfaces in the vehicle. Both children and adults face the risk of air bag injury or death if they are positioned too close to the air bag or fail to use proper restraints; in fact, adults and children have died from air bag-related injuries.

My Airbag Did Not Deploy-What Went Wrong?

A common complaint comes from irate consumers wondering why their air bag did not deploy during a crash. Air bag deployment is based on certain thresholds, which may or may not have been met, i.e., system failure.

Air Bag Deployment Thresholds

Conventional air bags are generally designed to deploy in certain frontal crashes above the thresholds selected by the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, the thresholds for their car vary widely between manufacturers, even among different models from the same manufacturer.

Most frontal air bags from the 1990s were designed to deploy in crashes above a threshold level of 14 mph into a solid concrete barrier.  At the same time, most air bag systems were also designed to never deploy in crashes below 8 mph into a solid concrete barrier.  Between these two speeds, the air bags may or may not deploy, depending on the specifics of the accident and vehicle.

These speeds are based on crash tests into a solid concrete barrier.  If your car has struck something that moved or deformed (like another car or guardrail), these thresholds could be much higher.  For example, a 14 mph barrier test may be equivalent to a frontal crash at 28 mph into a parked car.  Also, these thresholds for air bag deployment have generally increased since the 1990s, with some now reaching 18 miles per hour, recognizing that air bags can cause more injuries than they prevent in minor accidents.

The guiding principle is: Airbags should always deploy in every crash where they are likely to prevent serious personal injury or a wrongful death.  If your crash severity exceeds the car company’s thresholds, and yet your air bags did not deploy, you may have a defect in your vehicle’s air bag system.

Your air bags should deploy in every crash where they will help prevent your injuries.  This means that your air bag should deploy in those crashes where you would otherwise suffer injuries of the type that the air bag is designed to prevent: head, neck, and chest injuries. Although frontal air bags are generally not designed to deploy in side impacts or rollovers, in some cases they should deploy in those kinds of crashes.  That is because some side impacts or rollovers also cause front-to-back deceleration that causes you to move forward inside your vehicle.

Similarly, frontal air bags should generally not deploy in rear impacts; however, if you are hit from behind and pushed into a car in front of you, that second impact to your car’s front end may justify deployment of your air bags.

For side impact air bags, they should generally deploy on the side of the car experiencing the side impact.  Similarly, rollover “curtain” air bags should deploy when the vehicle experiences a rollover, to help prevent head and neck injuries and to reduce the risk of being ejected through an open or shattered window.

Your frontal air bags should not deploy in:

  • Side impacts, rear impacts and rollovers where there is no significant deceleration from front to back.
  • Minor frontal crashes.
  • Most impacts to the undercarriage of the vehicle, such as when crossing a railroad, unless they would result in serious personal injury.
  • Impacts with animals such as deer or dogs.
  • Impacts with street curbs or parking blocks.
  • Driving on rough roads, including those with large potholes, gravel or bumps.

The second reason is that there could be a defect that prevented the crash sensors from detecting the crash properly.  Investigation and analyses of air bag systems in hundreds and hundreds of crashes has revealed numerous causes that fall within this category.  In some cases, the air bag deployment threshold is simply not set appropriately, often due to inadequate testing.  In other cases, a flaw in the software of the air bag control module has caused it to ignore the data from one of the crash sensors .

The third reason is that there could be a defect that prevented the deployment signal from reaching the air bag modules and deploying them.  Here, the problem usually lies with the electrical components and wiring between the crash sensors, control module and the air bag modules.  The most frequent defect in this category that we see is when the driver air bag fails to deploy, but the passenger air bag does deploy.  In many cases, this is due to a defective clockspring located in the steering column.

Accidental Airbag Deployment

Airbags are meant to protect the occupants in a vehicle during a crash. But certain execution or system errors may cause accidental airbag deployment. This may lead to consequences of catastrophic proportions. Murphy’s Law can never be ruled out.

Incidences of accidental deployment of airbags have killed substantial number of people. Also, most mishaps occurred when the airbags failed to deploy during the crash and deployed at some other time. Though, this can be largely attributed to the system errors, human intervention is also responsible to a great extent. An Airbag system is made up of three components – crash sensors, diagnostic module and airbag module. We are aware how each system works. The airbag module is the only module which uses a pyrotechnic device for inflation. This device uses the current (approximately 750 ma) for energizing an igniter which initiates the combustion of sodium azide pellets to create inert nitrogen gas for filling airbags. As just seen, for deployment of an airbag certain criteria must be met.
The primary cause is faulty working of some on board computer. There are about hundreds of on board computers installed in advanced cars. Thus, you can imagine the probability of something going wrong with any of these computers. Besides, the installation of grey market equipment tends to interfere with the deployment mechanism of the airbag. Many car owners clutter the area around airbags with mobile phone chargers, iPod docking stations and other such equipment. This is highly risky as it can interfere with the signals of sensor, and can cause accidental deployment of an airbag.

How to Avoid Accidental Airbag Deployment

Visit a specialized technician for any problem concerning the electrical circuitry around airbag deployment system. If you are a DIY person, make sure you follow the guidelines below for safe functioning of airbag deployment system:

  • Do not undertake any electrical operation without deactivating the battery.
  • The deactivation should be done as per the manufacturer’s instructions only.
  • Do not clutter the area near dashboard and airbags with unnecessary electronic devices.
  • Avoid driving vehicle in wet, dusty conditions for too long.
  • Routinely check for faulty, outdated parts and replace them with new factory parts.
  • Get a computerized test done to check if the airbag system is working properly.

What Needs Replacement After The Airbags Deploy?

  • From 1989-1993: you will need to replace only the driver’s airbag and either reprogram or replace the control module and replace damaged impact sensors and clock-spring, if needed.
  • From 1994-2000: By now most cars come equipped with both drivers and passenger airbag and therefore both must be replaced. You must also reprogram or replace the controls module and replace damaged impact sensors and clock-spring, if needed.
  • From 2001-Present: Manufacturers began to implement dual stage deployment airbags (smart airbags) along with seat, side, curtain, knee and foot airbags. Also, seat belt pre-tensioners were developed and are now a part of the SRS system. With the advent of smart airbags, the only airbags that deploy is determined by the placement of the occupants in the car and on which side of the vehicle the impact occurred. Head-on collision requires that you replace both front airbags and either reprogram or replace the control module; replace damaged impact sensors and clock-spring. Both seat belts will also need to be replaced, as well as knee and foot airbags if equipped on your vehicle. Impacts that involve side collision will require, in addition to the above, side and curtain airbags when equipped on your vehicle.

How to Tell If a Used Car Had an Airbag Deployed

When purchasing a used vehicle, it is important to know if it had an airbag deployed. An airbag deployment requires that the airbag, the modules and the cover all be replaced. Moreover, all of the electronics involved in airbag deployment must be inspected and replaced if necessary. This can be an expensive undertaking, and some unscrupulous salespeople and/or mechanics will only perform cosmetic repairs.

Utilize All Research Options

  1. Ask the seller detailed questions about the vehicle you plan to buy, specifically about accidents. Unless the vehicle sustained only minor damage to the sides or the rear, there was probably an airbag deployment. Many services provide vehicle histories. Some vehicle sellers will supply a copy of the report free of charge. However, be prepared to order and purchase one on your own. Even with the vehicle history report, take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for an impartial inspection. You will soon know if there was an airbag deployment, and also if the vehicle is in good working order.
  2. Inspect the Airbag Cover. When an airbag deploys, the airbag cover splits apart. The split cover can be repaired. Look and feel for any unevenness in the cover. Check for the presence of seams and repainting. If the cover was repainted, it will look “fresh” compared to the rest of the interior. Check the cover to see if it has the vehicle manufacturer’s emblem and the SRS (Safety Restraint System) logo on it. Cosmetic airbag covers will not have the emblem or the SRS logo. Indeed, some cosmetic covers will state that there is no airbag inside them .
  3. Inspect the Dash. Another indicator of airbag deployment is dash replacement. When there is an airbag deployment, both the driver and passenger side airbags will have deployed. Since the passenger side airbag is located inside the dash, an airbag deployment will split the dash open.
  4. Check the Airbag Indicator Light. The airbag indicator light can clue you in on airbag system trouble. Turn the ignition key to the first position, and pause there. This is the indicator light test position. You should see all the indicator lights turn on, including the airbag light. Turn the ignition to the start position and start the vehicle. Take note of the airbag indicator light. Normal operation is when the light comes on momentarily and goes out. If the light stays on or flashes, there is a problem with the airbag system .
  5. Ask the seller to order a CARFAX Vehicle History Report, or order one yourself, it can reveal if a vehicle was issued a salvage title or has been reportedly involved in an accident.
  6. Check the seat belts, if they retract slowly, or don’t retract at all, that’s a big warning sign that the air bags may have been deployed, and not replaced.
  7. Examine the area around the airbag compartment for little scratches or marks that could mean the airbag has deployed.

The best way to detect a fraud is to take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection. Take note of the advice on how to check for fake airbags in this video.

NHTSA has issued a consumer safety advisory to alert vehicle owners and repair professionals to the dangers of counterfeit air bags. NHTSA has become aware of a problem involving the sale of counterfeit air bags for use as replacement parts in vehicles that have been involved in a crash. While these air bags look nearly identical to certified, original equipment parts—including bearing the insignia and branding of major automakers — NHTSA testing  showed consistent malfunctioning ranging from non-deployment of the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment.

NHTSA is not aware of any deaths or injuries connected to counterfeit air bags.

While the full scope and scale of the problem of counterfeit air bags is uncertain from currently available data, NHTSA has identified certain vehicle makes and models for which these air bags may be available and believes this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet. Only vehicles which have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at risk.

Consumers whose vehicles have been in a crash and had their air bags replaced by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership within the past three years or who have purchased a replacement air bag online should contact the call center that has been established by their auto manufacturer to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense and their air bag replaced if necessary. The full list of call centers and additional information is available online.

CAR SAFETY FOR KIDS: Parent’s Guide to Child Safety

Children Run Over in Driveway Accidents

Around 2,400 kids each year – or close to 50 children each week – are injured after being struck or run over by a car that is backing out from a driveway. Of these, around 2 kids will die each week from their injuries, (or around 100 every year), according to 2007 data from NHTSA. In sum, backover accidents account for around 42 percent of all non-traffic related auto fatalities involving children each year. More often than not, it’s a relative behind the wheel – often a parent – who runs the child over.

How do driveway accidents happen? These accidents occur from a lapse in supervision as someone is either leaving or coming home from a trip. A child is lost track of for just a moment and ends up either in front of or in back of the car without the driver noticing. A child may slip out the door without being seen, and so the person leaving assumes the child is still safely inside. Occasionally they occur because a child is playing / hiding underneath a car. 39 percent of backovers happen at home.

What parents can do to avoid driveway accidents

  1. Walk around the vehicle before you get in to drive away, looking not just around the tires and underneath the car but also in the general vicinity in each direction for any kids that may be nearby (yours or someone else’s). If there are, make sure you keep a visual on them your entire time backing out. Stop immediately if you lose sight of one. Do this every time you back out. Kids are everywhere and you don’t want to be one of those people who accidentally hits a child in the parking lot.
  2. Understand that ALL vehicles have blind zones, and get to know where they are on your vehicle. Every car has areas in the front and back that can’t be seen from the driver’s seat. Blind zones in the front of the car can extend 6 to 8 feet long and be as wide as the car. Blind zones in the back can be even longer – seven to eight feet wide and as much as 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m) long. The higher off the ground the driver sits and the bigger the car, the larger the vehicles blind zones.
  3. Never back out in a hurry. It doesn’t matter how rushed or how late to work you are, that 10-20 seconds you might save in your rush to back out is not going to make an appreciable difference.
  4. Be sure to keep your driveway / yard clear of toys, balls, sports equipment, or other debris that could tempt a child to dart behind your car.
  5. Hold toddlers and young preschoolers when someone is backing out so they aren’t tempted to run away or wiggle from your grasp.
  6. As soon as your kids can walk and talk, explain to them how important it is to never try and run· after mommy or run / play behind a car. If they need to get an adult’s attention, they can jump up and down or wave their arms while shouting, but not run after the car .
  7. Take extra care if you drive a large vehicle because they are likely to have bigger blind zones. Roll down your windows while backing out of your driveway or parking space so that you’ll be able to hear what is happening outside of your vehicle.

Backup Safety Systems for Cars

Newer cars can come equipped with optional backup safety systems to help prevent these accidents, and you can also opt for a retrofit. There are two types of backup safety systems: rear sensors and rearview cameras. An audio backup sensor kit can run anywhere from $50 to $250, a backup video system can start at around $100-$200 for the camera and dashboard monitor, and up to $1,000 to install a complete video navigation system. You can purchase such systems at your local electronics store or car dealer, and pay for installation or install them yourself.

The best system to have is a rearview video system that will give you a wide angle view of everything behind your car. Backup motion sensors (which beep if something is behind you) are less reliable but could help improve safety. Just be sure not to use these systems as a crutch in place of other safety habits. Backup sensors are not foolproof (they may not sound for a stationary child, for example), and even with a camera, you should still do a walk around to ensure there are no kids playing underneath or around the car, where your camera may not see. Use these systems to aid you when reversing out, but don’t let them replace traditional methods.

Runaway Car Accidents Involving Children

Runaway cars are an often overlooked danger to children. Since 2002, at least 100 kids have died inside a runaway car. Numerous accidents have taken place in which children outside a car have been hit and killed by someone else’s runaway car.

Parents often leave their kids inside the car when conducting simple errands, such as getting gas, checking the air on their tires, or even stepping out for just a moment to talk to someone. During this time a child may move around, somehow dislodging the gear from park. Other accidents occur when children are playing in cars and deactivate the emergency brake, put the transmission into gear, or otherwise get the car rolling. Some parents may simply forget to set the brake after parking on a slope, and can’t correct it once they realize their mistake. However it happens, the runaway vehicle ends up rolling into traffic and being struck by another car. In some cases, kids may panic and try to jump out, and end up falling out of the car and being run over.

Simple steps parents can take to reduce this risk:

  1. Always use your emergency brake! Apply it even when you don’t think you’re parked on a slope. In some municipalities, it is actually illegal NOT to use your emergency brake. Just keep in mind that this does not prevent a car from being shifted into gear, which may overpower the emergency brake.
  2. Whenever parking on a hill, don’t hop right out. Set your brake, release the pedals, and stay put for 5 to 10 seconds to ensure it won’t roll. This quick and simple step will help ensure you don’t end up chasing your car down the hill.
  3. Have a talk with children about the dangers of playing around inside cars. Show them where the gear shift and levers are, and explain that bumping these could cause the car to roll.

Check your car for a brake transmission shift interlock system (BTSI)

In 2006, NHTSA asked automakers to add BTSI systems to all new models in the U.S. with automatic transmissions. This means that no matter what position the key is in, a driver must have a foot on the brake when shifting the car out of park, thus preventing kids from accidentally putting a vehicle into gear. BTSI systems have since been included in around 80 percent of cars made since 2006.

You can ask your car dealer or manufacturer whether your car has BTSI, or check it yourself.

In an effort to raise awareness about protecting kids in and around vehicles, Safe Kids created a program called Spot The Tot. This initiative teaches families about preventable injuries that occur in driveways and parking lots when drivers are unaware that children are near vehicles. It also provides tips on how to spot kids and avoid an unintentional frontover or backover incident. 

Children Heatstroke Deaths in Vehicles

According to Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, San Jose State University, who has written a Paper on the subject of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles, there were at least thirty heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles in 2014; twenty-five confirmed as heatstroke and five are still pending official findings by the medical examiner. There were a number of close calls as well.

In 2013, there were at least forty-four deaths of children in vehicles; thirty-nine confirmed as heatstroke and five which, based upon the known circumstances, are most likely heatstroke (2013 list).  In 2012 there were 34 deaths of children due to hyperthermia (heatstroke) after being left in or having gained access to hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s.  Since 1998 there have been at least 636 documented cases of heatstroke deaths of children in vehicles.  This data and study shows that these incidents can occur on days with relatively mild (i.e., ~ 70 degrees F) temperatures and that vehicles can reach life-threatening temperatures very rapidly.


  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2014:  30
  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke deaths of children left in cars, 2013:  44
  • Total number of U.S. heatstroke  deaths of children left in cars, 1998-present:  636
  • Average number of U.S. child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998: 37


  • An examination of media reports about the 636 child vehicular heatstroke deaths for an fourteen year period (1998 through 2014) shows the following circumstances:
  • 53% – child “forgotten” by caregiver (336 Children).
  • 29% – child playing in unattended vehicle (186).
  • 17% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult (110).
  • 1% – circumstances unknown (4).

The demographics of persons responsible for heatstroke deaths of children forgotten in vehicles are also available. The children that died from vehicular heatstroke in the United States (1998-2014) have ranged in age from 5 days to 14 years.  More than half of the deaths are children < 2 years of age.

  • Less than 1 year old = 31% (197)
  • 1-year old = 22% (142)
  • 2-years old = 20% (126)
  • 3-years old = 13% (82)
  • 4-years old = 6% (39)
  • 5-years old = 3% (22)
  • 6-years old = 1% (9)
  • 7-years old and older = < 1% (3)

Airbags & Heatstroke Deaths

In the three-year period of 1990-1992, before airbags became popular, there were only 11 known deaths of children from heatstroke. In the most recent three-year period of 2012-2014, when almost all young children are now placed in back seats instead of front seats, there have been at least 109 known fatalities from heatstroke…a ten-fold increase from the rate of the early 1990s. This in no way implies that children be placed in the front seat or that airbags be disabled.


  • Only 20 states have laws specifically addressing leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • The remaining 30 states do not have laws specifically against leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
  • Another 14 states have had previously proposed unattended child laws
  • An Associated Press (AP) study “Wide disparity in sentences for leaving kids to die in hot cars” examined both the frequency of prosecutions and length of sentences in hyperthermia deaths. Charges were filed in 49% of all the deaths.  81% resulted in convictions.
    • In cases with paid caregivers (i.e., childcare workers, babysitters) 84% were charged and 96% convicted.
    • Only 7% of the cases involved drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, heatstroke is one of the leading causes of death among children. Be sure to follow these three important rules to prevent child heatstroke in your car:

  • Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car
    • It’s never OK to leave a child alone in a car, even for a few minutes, and even if the car is on.
    • Opening windows will not prevent heatstroke.
    • Heatstroke happens even on cloudy days and in outside temperatures below 70 degrees.
    • Don’t let kids play in an unattended vehicle.
  • Look Before You Lock
    • Always check the back seats of your vehicle before your lock it and walk away.
    • Keep a stuffed animal or other memento in your child’s car seat when it’s empty, and move it to the front seat as a visual reminder when your child is in the back seat.
    • If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine has been altered, always check that your child arrived safely.
  • Take Action if You See a Child Alone in a Car
    • Don’t wait more than a few minutes for the driver to return.
    • Don’t worry about getting involved in someone else’s business—protecting children is everyone’s business.
    • “Good Samaritan” laws offer legal protection for those who offer assistance in an emergency.
    • If the child is not responsive or is in distress, immediately: call 911. Get the child out of the car. Spray the child with cool water (not in an ice bath). If the child is responsive: stay with the child until help arrives. Have someone else search for the driver or ask the facility to page them.


Heatstroke occurs when a person’s temperature exceeds 104° F (40° C) and their thermoregulatory mechanism is overwhelmed. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, hot dry skin that is flushed but not sweaty, loss of consciousness, rapid heart beat, hallucinations.
  • A core body temperature of 107° F (41.7° C) or greater can be lethal as cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down.
  • Children’s thermoregulatory systems are not as efficient as an adult’s and their body temperatures warm at a rate 3 to 5 times faster than an adult’s.

Vehicle Heating Dynamics

The atmosphere and the windows of a car are relatively “transparent” to the sun’s shortwave radiation and are warmed little.  However this shortwave energy does heat objects that it strikes.  For example, a dark dashboard or seat can easily reach temperatures in the range of 180 to over 200 °F (82.2-93.3° C).  These objects (e.g., dashboard, steering wheel, childseat) heat the adjacent air by conduction and convection and also give off longwave radiation (red) which is very efficient at warming the air trapped inside a vehicle.

Vehicle Heat Study: Study of temperature rise in enclosed cars between May 16 and Aug. 8, 2002.

Ambient conditions

  • Ambient temperature were between 72 and 96 degrees F.
  • Dark Blue mid-side sedan with medium grey interior.
  • Also tested with windows “cracked.”

Outcome of the Study:

Average elapsed time and temperature rise

  • 10 minutes ~ 19 deg F
  • 20 minutes ~ 29 deg F
  • 30 minutes ~ 34 deg F
  • 60 minutes ~ 43 deg F
  • 1 to 2 hours ~ 45-50 deg F
  • “Cracking” the windows had little effect.
  • Vehicle interior color probably biggest factor .

“Parents and other caregivers need to be educated that a vehicle is not a babysitter or play area … but it can easily become tragedy”

Child Safety Seat

Baby car seats are legally required in many countries, including the United States, to safely transport children up to the age of 2 or more years in cars and other vehicles.

Child safety seats (also referred to as an infant safety seat, a child restraint system or a restraining car seat) are seats designed specifically to protect children from injury or death during collisions. Some car manufacturers integrate child safety seats with their vehicle’s design. Most commonly, these seats are purchased and installed by consumers. Many regions require children defined by age, weight, and/or height to use a government-approved child safety seat when riding in a vehicle. Child safety seats provide passive restraints and must be properly used to be effective. However, many child safety restraints in countries such as Canada and the United States are not used properly. To overcome this negative trend, health officials and child safety experts produce child safety videos to teach proper car seat installation to parents and caregivers.

Before buying a car seat, keep some points in mind:

  • As children grow, how they sit in your car will change. Make sure you use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age.
  • Not all car seats fit in all vehicles. Make sure the car seat is the right fit for your vehicle. Test the car seat you plan to buy to make sure it fits well with your vehicle.
  • Buy a car seat that can be installed and used correctly every time.
  • Know whether your car has the LATCH system. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. Instead of seat belts, special anchors hold the seat in place. If your car and car seat do not have the LATCH system, you will need to use seat belts to install the car seat.

Types of Baby Car Seats

  • Infant Car Seat (Rear-Facing only): Designed for newborns and small babies, the infant-only car seat is a small, portable seat that can only be used rear-facing. Babies usually outgrow their infant car seats by eight or nine months. When that happens, we recommend that parents purchase a convertible or all-in-one car seat and use it rear-facing.
  • Convertible Seat: As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.
  • All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows. Because it can be used with children of various sizes, it allows for children to stay in the rear-facing position longer.

Rear-Facing Car Seat

A rear-facing car seat is the best seat for your young child to use. It has a harness and, in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord. In 2013, a new car seat regulation was introduced called “i-Size.” i-Size is the name of a new European safety regulation that affects car seats for children under 15 months of age. It came into effect in July 2013 and provides extra protection in several ways, most notably by providing rearward facing travel for children up to 15 months instead of 9 to 12 months, which the previous EU regulation advised.

Some countries, such as Australia and the United States, forbid rear-facing child seats in a front seat that has an airbag. A rear-facing infant restraint put in the front seat of a vehicle places an infant’s head close to the airbag, which can cause severe head injuries or death if the airbag deploys. Some modern cars include a switch to disable the front passenger airbag for child-supporting seat use.

Other car seats, also known as “booster seats,” are required until the child is large enough to use an adult seat belt. This is usually, but not always, when the child is 4 ft 9 in (1.45m) tall. The child needs to meet five criteria before moving out of the booster seat, including the child’s seating position, shoulder belt position, lap belt position, knee position, and ability to sit properly for the length of the trip. Booster seats are recommended for children until they are big enough to properly use a seat belt. Seat belts are engineered for adults, and are thus too big for small children. In the United States, for children under the age of 4 and/or under 40 lb, a seat with a 5-point harness is suggested instead of a booster seat. Booster seats lift the child and allow the seat belt to sit firmly across the collar bone and chest, with the lap portion fitted to the hips. If the seat belt is not across the collar bone and the hips, it will ride across the neck and the stomach and cause internal injuries in the event of a collision.

There are four types of booster seats:

  • Booster Seat with High Back: This type of booster seat is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It also provides neck and head support and is ideal for vehicles that don’t have head rests or high seat backs.
  • Backless Booster Seat: A backless booster seat is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. It does not provide head and neck support. It is ideal for vehicles that have head rests.
  • Combination Seat: As a child grows, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster.

All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows.

Forward-Facing Car Seat

The forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash. There are three types:

  • Convertible Seat: As a child grows, this seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether.
  • Combination Seat: As a child grows, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether into a booster.

All-in-One Seat: This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster seat as a child grows. U.S. Government agencies recommend that you always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available; To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight limits; Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

They also advise you to:

  • Use a rear-facing car seat from birth for the next 12 months. Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • From 1-3 years, keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit set by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he/she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.
  • Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.
  • At the 4 – 7 year stage, keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.
  • At the 8 – 12 Year stage, keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there. This video explains it all graphically.

This next video will guide you in fixing a convertible car seat rear-facing with a seat belt.

Car Seat Registration

NHTSA advises all parents to make sure motor vehicles and car seats meet all Federal Safety Standards. Sometimes a motor vehicle or piece of vehicle safety equipment, such as a car seat or booster seat, doesn’t comply with these required safety standards—or there’s a safety-related defect. When this happens, a recall may occur so the manufacturer can fix the problem. You don’t want to be left out. As a parent or caregiver, you want to do everything possible to make sure your child is safe in the car. Yet very few people ever register their car and booster seats so they can receive recall notices!

Registering your seat makes sense: It gives the manufacturer the ability to contact you about recalls and safety notices. It’s also easy: Just send in the card that came with your car seat or fill out a simple form on the manufacturer’s website. Your child’s safety could depend on it.

Installing Child Car Seats

  1. Securing your child car safety seat. Always install the seat tightly, using your body weight to tighten and fasten the seatbelt. There should be no more than 2.5 cm (1″) of movement where the seatbelt or the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) strap is routed through the child car seat. Each time you place your child in the car safety seat, give it a tug to make sure it is still secure.
  2. Using tether straps with forward-facing car seats. The tether strap for a forward-facing child car safety seat must be used. The tether strap is located on the rear of the child car safety seat and has a hook. The hook is designed to attach the strap to the tether anchorage on the vehicle as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Ensure the tether is only secured to the designated anchorage point(s) in the vehicle as specified by the manufacturer. This video shows you how to install a forward-facing seat for infants.
  3. Using Universal Anchorage System (UAS). Most vehicles come with lower universal anchorage points. Consult the vehicle owner’s manual before using the UAS system to determine where the anchorage points are located and ensure that the correct method is used as advised by the car seat manufacturer.
  4. Using locking clips. Sometimes locking clips may be required to safely secure a child car safety seat in a vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual to see if you need one. If so, install the locking clip on the seatbelt within 13 mm (1/2 inch) of the latch plate.
  5. Using harness slots. Your child car safety seat’s harness straps must be positioned correctly by ensuring they pass through the correct slots. Rear-facing child car safety seat harness straps should sit at or below the child’s shoulders. Forward-facing child car safety seat harness straps should sit at or above the child’s shoulders.
  6. Securing your child in the harness. Place the child in the child car seat, ensuring the harness straps lie flat with no more than 1 finger space between the harness and the child’s collarbone (rear-facing) or chest (forward-facing).
  7. Positioning your harness straps. Ensure that harness straps lie flat and they do not twist or fold. Harness straps need to be straightened out each time the child is secured in the seat.
  8. Adjusting chest clip. Properly adjust the chest clip on the harness. It should lie flat against the chest and be positioned at armpit level.
  9. Installing away from active air bags. Always install child car safety seats away from active air bags. The safest place is in the back seat of a passenger car, sport utility vehicle or light truck and either the second or third row in a mini-van.
  10. Installing your rear-facing child car safety seat on a proper angle.

Most child car safety seats have a recline position that must be used when in the rear-facing position for an infant (up to 9  kg or 20 lb). Check your child car safety seat owner’s manual for instructions. For rear-facing seats, if necessary, use a tightly rolled towel or a foam bar (pool noodle) under the base of the child car safety seat to adjust the angle to 45 degrees. A forward-facing child car safety seat should be in the upright position. Make sure that when the seat is turned from rear-facing to forward-facing, the recline feature is adjusted to the upright position.

Booster seats: Booster seats are required for children under the age of eight, weighing 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lb) and who stand less than 145 cm (4 feet-9 inches) tall. Booster seats raise a child up so that the adult seatbelt fits and works more effectively. A lap and shoulder belt combination must be used for both the high-back and low-back booster seat. If your vehicle only has lap belts in the rear seat, contact your local dealer regarding retrofitting it with a shoulder belt. Never use a lap belt alone with a booster seat. Your child’s head must be supported by the top of the booster seat and the vehicle seat or head rest. The shoulder strap must lie across your child’s shoulder and the middle of their chest (not the neck or face) and the lap belt must cross low over the hips (not the stomach/abdomen). Never use seatbelt adjusters. Watch this video for instructions.

When is a Child Ready for a Seat Belt?

The principal specs of a seat belt are that the lap portion of the safety belt must fit low and tight across the upper thighs and the shoulder portion of the safety belt should rest over the center of the
shoulder and across the chest. To be able to fit in a safety belt, a child must pass this 5-step test:

  • Be tall enough to sit without slouching,
  • Keep his/her back against the vehicle seat back,
  • Keep his/her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat,
  • Keep his/her feet flat on the floor, and
  • Be able to stay comfortably seated this way for the entire trip.

If the safety belt does not fit properly the child should use a belt-positioning booster seat. Do not try any adjustments on your own; you will be playing with your child’s life. Devices advertised to improve safety belt fit for older children and adults are presently not covered by government safety standards. These products are not recommended. The back seat is best – up to age 12.

The Hazards of Seat Belt Entanglement

A child within reach of a seat belt may become entangled if he or she pulls the seat belt all the way out and wraps the belt around his or her head, neck, or waist. The majority of seat belts have a locking mechanism that is activated when the seat belt is pulled all the way out from the retractor. This feature is designed for child seat installation. In instances when the locking feature activates, the child may not be able to free him or herself.

Since 1998, more than 30 cases have been reported to the NHTSA in which children had to be cut loose from vehicle belts they had wrapped around their necks or bodies. All shoulder–lap belts have a retractor that holds the unused part of the belt and locks the belt in a crash or sudden stop. Normally, the belt rolls in and out of the retractor when the user moves. However, to improve installation of child safety seats, it is possible to lock belts in passenger seating locations for most cars made since 1996. This kind of belt can be dangerous if a child, unaware of the risk, locks it and then becomes entangled in the belt.

How to Protect Your Child from Loose or Unused Belts

If you install your child’s safety seat using the shoulder–lap belt… Follow installation instructions in the manuals for the child safety seat and the vehicle. After installation, make sure that the shoulder belt is either locked tight without slack or that it moves freely in and out and cannot be locked.
If you install your child’s safety seat using LATCH* connectors… First, buckle the shoulder–lap belt, lock the retractor**, and remove the slack in the belt so it lies flat against the vehicle seat. Install the safety seat with LATCH connectors according to instructions. Some vehicle manufacturers state the unused belt should be released from the buckle after the safety seat is installed.
If your child can reach any unused shoulder–lap belt… Buckle the belt, lock the retractor*, and remove the slack in the belt. You may need to buckle in a large stuffed animal or pillow to prevent the shoulder belt from retracting too far, allowing it to unlock.
If your child is riding in a booster seat… The shoulder-lap belt must be snug against the child’s body. Managing the belt is harder for younger children. Fortunately, there are many safety seats with a harness system that can be used up to 65 lbs. or more. If your child is in a booster, make sure he or she can keep the safety belt snug and correctly positioned
In all cases…  Never leave a child alone in the car. Make sure all children are snugly harnessed. Consider carrying a special belt cutter in the glove compartment in case of emergency.

*How to lock the retractor: Slowly and smoothly, without yanking, pull the shoulder belt all the way out. As the belt goes back into the retractor, a ratcheting (clicking) sound may be heard. The belt cannot be loosened without unbuckling the belt and letting most of it go back into the retractor.”

Driving Safety Tips for Pregnant Women

As a pregnant woman, you may be compelled to drive for many different reasons. Your baby is generally well protected in your belly, but traveling by car can still be hazardous if you get into an accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 32,800 pregnant women are involved in motor vehicle crashes every year. 80 percent of unrestrained pregnant women have adverse fetal outcomes, including the death of the unborn baby or other serious neo-natal health complications.

There’s no reason why you can’t carry on driving as normal. Other than common problems associated with pregnancy, like having to stop a bit more often for toilet breaks or to rub your tummy, take a walk or stretch to relieve any backache on long journeys. Driving while pregnant is safe. However, as your pregnancy progresses and you grow larger it becomes more difficult for you to enter and exit a car especially with the steering wheel getting in the way. Although there is no hard or fast rule, most women tend to stop driving around 30 weeks preferring their partner do the driving simply because it’s easier and more comfortable. As NHTSA advises, try and be a passenger.

Being pregnant does not exempt you from wearing a seat belt while driving or as a passenger either in the front or rear of the car. You should always wear a seat belt. Wearing your seat belt protects you and your unborn baby from injury or death in the event of a car crash. In certain cases you may be exempt from wearing a seat belt on medical grounds, if this is the case your doctor will issue a medical
exemption certificate which you would have to produce if stopped by the police while driving.

While it is uncomfortable for women to wear seat belts, particularly in their second or third trimester, to protect the health and safety of the mother and baby it is essential that mothers wear seat belts at all times, regardless of their seating location in the vehicle. Despite significant efforts to increase public awareness regarding proper safety restraint use by expectant mothers, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for pregnant women, even in higher than complications from child delivery.

Many women are scared that wearing a seat belt during pregnancy may injure their unborn child. They fear their baby could be injured by their seat belt if an accident occurs or if they had to brake suddenly. But research in the UK has found that it’s much safer for both the mother–to–be and her unborn baby if seat belts are worn properly. Recent research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology concluded; “Seat belts clearly protect the fetus, in large part because the fetus protects the mother. It’s very clear, based on this study that pregnant women should wear a seat belt every single time they’re in a car. The strongest indicator for the likelihood of fetal survival of a motor vehicle crash is the severity of maternal injury. The study strongly suggests that about 200 fetuses each year would not lose their lives if women had worn their seat belts.”

It is very important for pregnant women to wear a 3-point lap and diagonal seat belt. These belts will stop you from being thrown from the car during an accident. The shoulder strap helps keep your body weight off your tummy and therefore off your unborn baby in the event of an accident. It is absolutely crucial for your safety and for your baby’s safety that you wear your seat belt correctly. The lap belt portion of the seat belt should be placed well under your pregnant tummy, snugly fitting over your pelvis and pubic bone and across your hips as high up on your thighs as possible. It’s really important that while driving you constantly check to see the lap belt has not risen up on to your bump.

The shoulder strap should be positioned off to the side of the uterus and between the breasts. Again it’s important that while driving you routinely check that the shoulder-belt is not directly lying over your bump as this could increase the risk of injury to your unborn baby during a high-speed collision.  Many cars have belt adjustment mountings that allow you to lower or raise the height of the shoulder strap so it fits snugly between your breasts and off to the side of your bump .

When you have to be the driver, move your seat as far back as is comfortable and tilt it slightly away from the steering wheel. Try to position yourself at least 10 inches (25 cm) from the steering wheel. Also, make sure the steering wheel is tilted toward your breastbone rather than toward your abdomen. Avoid leaning forward. Sit back against the seat with as little slack in your safety belt as possible. This will minimize your forward movement in a crash and let the air bag operate correctly.

Wear a shoulder-lap belt. Whether you’re the driver or a passenger, be sure to wear a full shoulder-lap belt, not a lap belt alone. The center rear seat (or the center middle seat in a van) is the safest seat in the vehicle − so if that seat has a shoulder-lap belt, that’s your safest option.

Regarding air bags, NHTSA says that the combination of air bags and safety belts offers a pregnant woman the highest level of protection, as long as she’s properly belted and sitting as far back from the front air bag as possible. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees, saying the benefits of an air bag outweigh the risks to a pregnant woman and her baby.

Side air bags have not been shown to pose a risk to passengers. In most cases, the biggest danger is from whatever object your car collides with − for example, another car or a tree. Still, it’s safest not to rest against the side air bag storage compartment, in case the bag deploys suddenly. Any injuries that have been reported as a result of air bag deployment are most likely because of sitting too near the steering wheel, also side door panel crushing or the incorrect wearing of seat belts or not wearing one at all.

According to SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., road crashes are the leading cause of death and serious trauma during pregnancy. This video discusses why and also shows you how best to wear a car seat belt.

Trunk Entrapment

Children are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. So, if you leave your kids unattended, in or near a vehicle, it won’t be long before they are playing in it. Hide and seek can turn deadly if they get trapped in the trunk, where temperatures can rise very quickly, resulting in heatstroke or asphyxiation.

Prevention Tips

  • Teach children not to play in or around cars. Teach them that vehicle trunks are for cargo, not for playing.
  • Always supervise your children carefully when in and around vehicles.
  • Check the trunk right away if your child is missing.
  • Lock your car doors and trunk and be sure keys and remote entry devices are out of sight and reach of your kids.
  • Keep the rear fold-down seats closed/locked to keep your children from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.

Retrofit Your Car

As of September 1, 2001, auto manufacturers were required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release inside the trunk compartment. Show your kids how to use the release in case of an emergency. If your car is older and does not have the ‘glow in the dark’ trunk release, ask your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.

What You Need to Know Now

  • Younger children are more sensitive to heat than older children and adults, and are at greater risk for heatstroke.
  • High temperature, humidity, and poor ventilation add up to the extremely dangerous environment of your vehicle’s trunk.
  • Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid 60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110° F (43.3° C). The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20° F (11° C) within the first 10 minutes.

Air Bag Safety for Children

Do air bags pose a danger to children? Yes. Front air bags have been required in all passenger cars since 1997 and all SUVs, pickups, and vans since 1998 because they save lives — but as of June 2007, they had also killed at least 180 children, several of them infants in rear-facing seats. Some of those deaths occurred in mere fender-benders.

The National Safety Council estimates air bags saved more than 1,040 lives in 1998. However, there were almost 100 children killed by air bags during the same year. These deaths were because of children sitting in the front seat, being improperly fastened by seat belts, or not wearing seat belts at all. What makes them so dangerous?

Air bags inflate almost instantly after a crash, often bursting from the dashboard at 200 mph (320 kph)—more than the force of a heavyweight fighter’s knockout punch. That impact can injure or kill children and even adults who are seated too close to the air bag or are thrown toward the dashboard during emergency braking.

Air bags can also be deadly to older children in the front seat. Because children have weaker back, neck, and stomach muscles, and because their head is larger in relation to the size of their body, it’s harder for them to maintain an upright position even in a gentle collision. So they’re more likely to come face to face with the blunt force of the bag as it expands.

The following information will help keep you and your children safe:

  • The safest place for all infants and children 12 years and younger is on the back seat.
  • Never put an infant in the front seat of a car, truck, SUV, or van with a passenger air bag.
  • All children should be properly secured in car safety seats, belt-positioning booster seats, or the lap and shoulder belts correct for their size.
  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.
  • All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car safety seat, should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.
  • Keep toys, blankets and other objects from getting between your child and an air bag.
  • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  • Side air bags improve safety for adults in side impact crashes, but children who are not properly restrained and are seated near a side air bag may be at risk for serious injury. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to see what it says about children and side air bags.
  • New “advanced” air bags make travel safer for adults, but it is not yet known how they will affect the safety of children. Even though these new air bags may be safer, the back seat is still the safest place for children 12 years and younger to ride.

What Parents Can Do

  • Eliminate potential risks of air bags to kids by buckling them in the back seat for every ride.
  • Plan ahead so that you do not have to drive with more children than can be safely restrained in the back seat.
  • For most families, installation of air bag on/off switches is not necessary. Air bags that are turned off provide no protection to older children, teens, parents, or other adults riding in the front seat.
  • Air bag on/off switches should only be used if your child has special health care needs for which your pediatrician recommends constant observation during travel and no other adult is available to ride in the back seat with your child.
  • If no other arrangement is possible and an older child must ride in the front seat because the car is full car or it lacks a backseat (a pickup truck, for instance), move the vehicle seat back as far as it can go, away from the air bag. Be sure the child is restrained properly for his size. Keep in mind that your child may still be at risk for injuries from the air bag. If the air bag has an on-off switch, set it to “off.” If you can’t turn the air bag off, under no circumstances place a rear-facing infant car seat in that spot.
  • Once again, the back seat is the safest place for children to ride.

Safe Driving Tips For Teenage Drivers

Teenage drivers account for more auto accidents than any other age group, as stated earlier in this Paper. However, by practicing safe driving techniques―such as driving defensively―you’ll increase the odds you’ll keep yourself (and your passengers) safe on the road and you’ll increase your chances of getting more affordable car insurance as you build a good driving record.

Teenagers are more likely than other drivers to have the least safe types of cars, often ending up behind the wheel of vehicles that are old, small and without good crash protection. Those are the findings of new research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry. Earlier this week the group released a list of recommended used vehicles to help parents buy safe cars within their budgets, ranging from less than $5,000 to nearly $20,000.

Older cars are much less likely to have important safety features, like electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbags, and small cars offer less protection that larger ones in a crash, the group said, noting that teens’ high risk of crashing is amplified by certain vehicles. A separate institute study showed that teenagers killed in crashes are more likely than adults to have been behind the wheel of small vehicles and older vehicles.

What is defensive driving? It’s a very simple concept-just imagine it’s the other guy who knows nothing about driving and you have to not only drive perfectly but also protect yourself from the faults the other guy is about to commit. Defensive driving is a set of driving skills that allows you to defend yourself against possible collisions caused by bad drivers, drunk drivers, and poor weather. If you look ahead and keep your eyes moving, you will spot potential hazards more easily. Once you have identified a potential hazard and decided what to do, act immediately.

Defensive drivers are able to avoid dangers on the road by using their safe driving practices. Tips for defensive driving:

  • Plan ahead for the unexpected.
  • Be able to control speed
  • Be prepared to react to other drivers
  • Do not expect the other driver to do what you think he or she should do
  • Respect other users of the roadway.
  • Be aware of driving in special road and weather conditions
  • Be alert and avoid distractions, e.g., cell phone use, eating.
  • Don’t make assumptions about another driver’s intentions. If you expect drivers in parked vehicles to remain parked at all times, always yield at intersections, or remain in one lane at all times, etc., you risk being caught off guard when drivers do not do what’s expected.

Vehicles Stop Sign

Expect other drivers to make mistakes and be prepared to react. If a mistake is made, you will be ready to defend yourself. Never assume that other drivers are sober, alert, and follow the rules of the road at all times.

Safety Tips

  • Put on your seat belt and make sure all your passengers buckle up, too.
  • Adjust your car’s headrest to a height behind your head–not your neck–to minimize whiplash in case you’re in an accident.
  • Don’t drive with small children or even small teenage friends as passengers in a front seat that has a passenger-side air bag. They should be buckled up in the back seat. Recent transportation studies show that small children and even small teens and adults may be injured by the air bags even in low impact collisions.
  • Never try to fit more people in the car than you have seat belts for them to use.
  • Use good quality tires and make sure they are inflated to the right pressure (check your owner’s manual for what is right for your tires and car).
  • Maintain your car. Bald tires, a slipping transmission, bad brakes, or a hesitant engine could lead to accidents.
  • Make sure your windshield is clean. At sun rise and sun set, light reflecting off your dirty windshield can momentarily blind you from seeing what’s going on.
  • Make sure your car has gas in it. Don’t ride around with the gauge on empty–who knows where you might get stranded.
  • Don’t drink and drive, and don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking. Call parents or friends to take you home if you need a ride.
  • Don’t take drugs or drive if you’ve taken any. Don’t ride with anyone who has been using drugs. Even some over the counter drugs can make you drowsy. Check label for warnings.
  • Use a designated driver when going out for a night on the town with friends. This person does not drink at all and has the responsibility of getting people home safely. (Drinking and driving or drugs and driving DO NOT MIX).
  • If parked inside a garage, ensure your garage door is completely open before backing out of it.
  • Use headlights during daylight driving, especially on long stretches of desert highway and rural roads to make you more visible to oncoming drivers. Make yourself 10 percent more visible.
  • When driving to a new place, get complete directions before you go. Figure out exactly where you are going before you head down the road.

While you drive…

  • Don’t drive like you own the road; drive like you own the car.
  • Obey the speed limits–going too fast gives you less time to stop or react. Excess speed is one of the main causes of teenage accidents.
  • Obey stop signs and traffic lights — don’t run yellow or RED lights.
  • When light turns green, make sure the intersection is clear before you go.
  • Use turn signals to indicate your intention to turn or to change lanes. Turn it on to give the drivers behind you enough time to react before you take the action. Also, make sure the signal turns off after you’ve completed the action.
  • Share the road with others – watch out for motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians.
  • Don’t blast the radio, CD, or MP3 player. You might miss hearing a siren or a horn that could warn you of possible trouble.
  • Don’t fiddle with the radio or your iPod while you are driving. It’s better to wait until you can pull over and stop because even taking your focus off the road for a few seconds could lead to an accident.
  • Don’t talk on the cell phone, text, put on make-up, comb your hair, or eat while driving. People who talk on cell phones while driving are four times more likely to have an accident. If you need to make a call or text someone, pull off the road to a safe spot and park the car.
  • Don’t leave your car in cruise control when you’re driving late at night or when you’re tired. If you fall asleep at the wheel, the car will crash at the speed you’ve set your control to maintain.
  • Keep your eyes open and do not become GPS reliant.
  • Be aware of the weather, traffic congestion, and road conditions – stay alert!
  • Watch out for potholes, especially after bad weather.
  • Be a courteous and safe driver at all times.
  • Choose a safe car. If possible, drive a safe car with the latest safety equipment (such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, air bags, etc.), and one with an excellent crash safety record.
  • Stay away from high horsepower. Powerful engines can tempt teens to test the limits.
  • ESC is a must. This feature helps a driver maintain control of the vehicle on curves and slippery roads; it reduces risk on a level comparable to safety belts.
  • Vehicles should have the best safety ratings possible.

Study this award winning video. It WILL help. There’s no substitute for driving experience and the wisdom that age brings, but by applying the above tips you’ll enhance the odds you won’t become a teenage driver accident statistic. Otherwise, age will come alone!

Distracted Teen Driving

Teens represented the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash and 57 percent of those killed were the teen drivers themselves. Those are among the findings of a new report released in mid-August 2014 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.

Teens have the highest crash risk of any age group, and as we’ve seen, the risk of being involved in a fatal distracted driving crash remains high throughout a driver’s twenties. An unexpected research finding indicated that the youngest and most inexperienced drivers are less likely than any other age group – with the exception of drivers 60 and older – to use a cell phone behind the wheel. This is because many brand new teen drivers recognize multiple passengers and portable electronics are distracting. But as they gain experience and become more confident in their driving skills, their attitudes about talking and texting while driving, as well as transporting passengers, changes.

New York will soon have the nation’s toughest distracted driving penalties, the report said.  For drivers under the age of 21 beginning November 1, the penalty will be a 120-day license suspension for the first offense and one year for the second. And state law is complemented with aggressive enforcement that includes utilizing unmarked, raised sport utility vehicles in a variety of colors that allow officers to better spot drivers who are texting or engaging in other distracting behaviors.

North Dakota invested federal distracted driving grant funds to provide law enforcement training in advance of a statewide high visibility enforcement initiative and media campaign conducted during Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. The state continues to support the effort with messages via Pandora , Hulu and other social media platforms directed to young drivers.

Washington conducts a high school program through which teens complete a series of tasks in an attempt to earn a $500 grant for the school group of their choice. Some of the teen-led projects in more than 230 high schools include flash mobs, legislative rallies and construction of Memory Walls to honor victims of distracted driving.

Teenage drivers are believed to be at risk for distracted driving-related crashes, as they are avid users of cell phones and other technologies, are inexperienced drivers, and are still undergoing development in areas of the brain responsible for decision-making and risk management. Why not train the teen brain for safer driving? The brain has to be trained to drive. As the teen brain is learning to drive, it is particularly open to distraction and overreaction. Distractions can cause teen drivers to lose focus and make mistakes. Common teen driving distractions include: passengers, radios and music players, cell phone conversations, text messaging, self-grooming, eating/drinking and odd objects or activity on the side of the road.

Inexperience can also cause teens to overreact to certain driving situations. Teen drivers are more likely to swerve into other lanes, brake too hard, run off the road, get rear-ended by another vehicle and cut off other drivers. They can be prepared for such eventualities by their parents in a  grooming session that extends over a couple of years.

As a parent, talk to your teen driver and tell him/her that you have trusted them enough to buy them their own cars. You need your teen’s faith in your trust to be displayed as discipline on the road. Talk to your teen in no uncertain terms about the issue of driving and cell phone use. Let them know why you feel it is important enough an issue to address and the rules you expect them to follow.

Make it clear that there are consequences for not following them – both natural and logical consequences. Be fair and let your teen in on the fact that there is a way for you to check up on them that you will use from time to time, but that you trust they will make the right choices.

Important Points to Remember

You should take some time with this conversation and not allow it to be taking place as your

teen is trying to walk out of the door. To best ensure that your teen isn’t tempted to text while driving, the rule should state that while they are behind the wheel, their cell phone should be off. This includes times they are at stop lights or in a parking lot – anytime the car is on the cell phone should be off.     Give your teen some input when thinking of fair and logical consequences in case there is any rule breaking. Get an agreement from your teen, either verbally or use a parenting contract.

Follow through with the consequences should your teen be caught texting or using their cell phone while driving. Parents following through with consequences is as important as setting the rules in the first place. If your teen breaks the cell phone and driving rules allow them another chance to gain back your trust and try again after you have followed through with the consequences.

Teen Speeding

Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2009, 39 percent were speeding at the time of the crash, says NHTSA. In a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle cannot withstand the force of the crash and maintain the passenger compartment. Also, as crash speeds get very high, restraint systems such as airbags and seat belts cannot keep the forces on occupants below severe injury levels, according to IIHS.

Speed influences the risk of crashes and crash injuries in three basic ways:

  • It increases the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver detects an emergency to the time the driver reacts, so by the time you realize you need to react, you’ve traveled closer to the danger
  • It increases the braking distance
  • It increases the crash energy by the square of the speeds. For example, when impact speed increases from 40 to 60 mph (a 50 percent increase), the energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent

Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of these risky driving behaviors among teen male drivers. If you double your speed – say from 30 mph to 60 mph – your braking distance does not become twice as long. It becomes four times as far. Traveling at 55 mph, it will take about 6 seconds to stop your vehicle. The vehicle will travel 302 feet before coming to a stop. That is more than the length of a football field.

The total stopping distance of your vehicle depends on four things:

  • Your perception time
  • Your reaction time
  • Your vehicle reaction time

Your vehicle braking capability

What to do about speeding:

  • With every mile per hour increase you also increase your reaction travel time, braking distance and crash energy.
  • High speed wrecks compromise your car’s safety features.
  • When you speed, you also decrease the judgment of other drivers to be able to gauge your distance and speed.
  • Understand speed limits are set with safety in mind. They are based on roadside environment, roadway design and pedestrian traffic.
  • Speeding to keep up with the flow of traffic is not legal and you can still be ticketed.
  • Speeding decreases your fuel efficiency.
  • You should always be able to stop within the distance you can see ahead.
  • Consider road conditions, weather and road design and slow down accordingly.
  • It is easier to lose traction when speeding around a curve and the high center of gravity makes it easier to roll over. Slow down before curves.
  • Remember to use the two-second rule to keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you .

Studies show that the youngest drivers have a bigger problem with speeding than older drivers. Speeding is more prevalent among males, at night, and in the presence of other teen passengers and more often leads to single-vehicle and run-off-road crashes. In fact, half of fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers with three or more passengers are speeding-related.

The issue of speeding among young drivers does not get as much attention as other risk factors such as distracted or alcohol- or drug-impaired driving. Speed limits have been going up in the United States in the last two decades, with some states posting speed limits of 80 mph (128 kph) and higher. Speeding is a generally accepted behavior among drivers young and old, with the vast majority admitting they speed on all road types. Unless speeding is recognized as a dangerous behavior, much the same as alcohol-impaired driving, it will continue to be difficult to address as a society. Parents should be taking the lead to do more to address speeding behavior among their teen drivers.

Crash studies clearly show that young drivers speed much more at night and in the presence of their friends, so laws that place nighttime and passenger restrictions on newly-licensed drivers take on particular importance. Many more lives could be saved if states strengthened their night and passenger restrictions. Passenger restrictions are difficult for parents to enforce when teens are driving unsupervised, so the burden lies with law enforcement to ensure that beginning drivers do not transport other teens. One tool that may help enhance enforcement is the use of license plate decals on the vehicles of beginning drivers. In 2010, New Jersey was the first state in the U.S. to enact a law to require decals for permitted and probationary drivers younger than 21 years of age. It has proved highly successful, though unpopular.

Teen Drinking and Driving

It is well known that driving while either intoxicated or drunk is dangerous and drivers with high blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) are at greatly increased risk of car accidents, highway injuries and vehicular deaths. This is more pronounced in teenagers due greater reaction to alcoholic drinks, inexperience and the bravado that comes with youth.

Alcohol is a factor in 13 percent of the crashes involving the youngest drivers.

  • In 2009, 16- to 20-year-old age drivers with a BAC of .08 or higher were involved in 19 percent of all fatal crashes.
  • In 2011, 10.3 percent of high school students 16 and older reported drinking and driving in the past 30 days.
  • In 2008, an estimated 12.4 percent of persons ages 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol at least once during the past year.
  • Drivers are less likely to use restraints when they have been drinking. In 2007, 64 percent of young drivers in passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were not wearing a safety belt.
  • In 2013, 21.9 percent of students nationwide had ridden one or more times in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.

Young people are over-represented in driving accidents involving alcohol. In a recent year, people aged 16 to 24 were involved in 28 percent of all alcohol-related driving accidents, although they make up only 14 percent of the U.S. population. Young people are also over-represented in drinking driver injuries and deaths. Even when their blood alcohol contents (BACs) are not high, young drinkers are involved in driving accidents at higher rates than older drivers with similar BACs.

This over-representation in drunk driving accidents is because, in part, they tend to

  • be relatively inexperienced drivers
  • be relatively inexperienced consumers of alcohol
  • be more likely to use illegal drugs
  • have a false sense of invincibility and immortality

In contrast to popular belief, drinking among young people is dropping and has been doing so for many years. For example, statistics demonstrate that within a period of about 20 years, the proportion of American high school seniors who

  • have ever consumed alcohol is down 13 percent.
  • have consumed alcohol within the previous year is down 15 percent.
  • have consumed alcohol within previous 30 days is down 27 percent.
  • have recently consumed alcohol daily is down 67 percent.
  • have “binged” (consumed 5 or more drinks on an occasion within previous two weeks) is down 24 percent.

Thus, deaths associated with young drinking drivers (those 16 to 24 years of age) are down dramatically, having dropped 47 percent in a recent 15-year period. Unusually, drinking among young people in general continues to drop.

The proportion of youths aged 12 through 17 who consumed any alcohol within the previous month has plummeted from 50 percent in 1979 to 19 percent in 1998, according to the federal government’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Thus, the proportion of young drinkers has dropped in 1998, the most recent year for which statistics are available, from one in two to under one in five in 1979. The proportion of first year college students who drink beer has fallen dramatically and recently reached the lowest point in over 30 years. Similar drops have been documented in collegiate wine and spirits consumption over the past decade by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

The so-called bingeing is not only down among high school seniors but is also down among college students, and has been declining for a number of years. It dropped significantly among college students in the United States in the four-year period referred to, and reached the lowest level in nearly twenty years. Refreshingly, the proportion of college students who abstain from alcohol climbed nearly 22 percent in that period of time.

The fact is that college students drink less than people think. Even on the traditional party nights of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 66 percent of the students returned home with absolutely no blood alcohol content; two of every three had not a trace of alcohol in their systems even on party nights. The internet is partly responsible, what with people addicted to social media sites, Skype, Instagram and selfies. There is an internal audit on drinking habits and the benefits of moderation are now apparent to all. But much remains to be done. Too many young people are still needlessly killed or injured as a result of drinking and driving.

What We Can Do to Reduce Drinking and Driving

  • Social Pressure is very effective in reducing drunk driving
  • Never condone or approve of intoxication. Intoxicated behavior is dangerous and never amusing
  • Don’t ever let your friends drive after drinking. Take away their keys, have them stay the night, have them ride home with someone else, or do whatever else is necessary – but don’t let them drive!
  • Designated Driver Programs save lives
    • Volunteer to be a designated driver. It could save your life and the lives of your friends
    • Realize that inexperienced drinkers become intoxicated with much less alcohol than do experienced drinkers and are much more likely to have traffic accidents after consuming small amounts alcohol.
    • Even a single drink dramatically increases the chances that a teen-aged driver will have a driving accident.

Graduated penalties for driving with higher BACs could save lives.

  • Faster speeders get higher speeding fines and higher blood alcohol contents (BACs) should get higher penalties.
  • Drivers with blood alcohol contents of .20 are hundreds of times more dangerous than those with only .02 and should receive much higher penalties.

Drugs and Driving

In four states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the sale and possession of marijuana is legal for both medical and non-medical use, while some states have created exemptions for medical cannabis use, as well as decriminalized non-medical cannabis use.

Exemptions notwithstanding, never use illegal drugs for safe driving. Illicit drugs are involved in a large proportion of driving accidents, injuries and deaths. Marijuana and other drugs reduce coordination, reaction time, and other abilities required to drive safely. In the case of marijuana, this impairment lasts as long as 24 hours after smoking just one joint.

As many as nearly 40 percent of injured drivers have tested positive for marijuana and the proportion is probably much higher for young drivers. Police almost never test for illegal drug use and many accidents blamed on alcohol are actually caused by illicit drugs.