Tag Archives: Occupant Protection

When Safety Should Take the Back Seat

By Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH

Image collage for strengthen occupant protection Most Wanted List Issue.As a public health professional, I have spent my career working in the United States and internationally to prevent injuries and deaths. At the NTSB, one of my primary roles is to advocate for the changes needed to prevent transportation accidents.

Significant advancements have been made to improve the safety of occupants in the front seats of passenger vehicles, including the development of advanced restraint and airbag systems, safer seat designs, and structural improvements to minimize injury due to intrusion. Today, 32 states have adopted legislation that requires front-seat passengers to use a seat belt, and we can celebrate that we have achieved a national daytime average seat-belt-use rate of 90 percent for front-seat passengers.

But what about rear seats? We have not seen similar technology advances in rear seats, and research shows that rear seat belt use is considerably lower, at 83 percent. How can research, engineering, and advocacy make an impact in increasing rear seat belt use?

In 2015, after decades of decline, the United States experienced the largest increase in motor vehicle crashes and resulting deaths. Another historic increase is expected for 2016.  In examining such a complex issue, we at the NTSB found ourselves asking the following: why aren’t people buckling up when they sit in the rear seat, and how can research, engineering, and advocacy increase rear seat belt use?

To answer these questions, we reached out to occupant protection experts drawn from the auto industry, the research community, safety advocates, and the government to participate in a workshop to help us find ways to strengthen occupant protection in the rear seat of passenger vehicles.

During the workshop, we discussed the current knowledge about rear seat occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and how these occupants utilize existing vehicle safety systems, such as seat belts.  We examined how the rear seat environment is different from the front, both in design and user demographics. The workshop also addressed advanced vehicle and emerging seat belt technologies, innovative seat designs, as well as areas of needed research and education.

Our workshop was designed to allow the sharing of experience and knowledge, as well as to encourage participants to collaborate on inventive strategies. As a result, in the detailed summary we are publishing today, participants identified short- and long-term goals that will require a greater amount of collaboration, engineering, design, and advocacy to achieve.

Together with researchers, automobile manufacturers, legislators, regulators, and safety advocates, we are identifying practical, real-world applications and opportunities to make rear seats safer for everyone.

For more information about the workshop, presentations and the summary document visit https://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Pages/2016_rss_WS.aspx.

Getting Ready for Riding Season

By Nicholas Worrell

Motorcycle Safety CourseIt’s been 15 years since I completed the Maryland Rider Training Program and got an M2 added to my driver’s license. That training was thorough and tough. But, boy, it was rewarding, and it’s fun to ride. With all the snow we’ve had across the country this winter, I sympathize with the frustrated motorcycle riders longing for a break from the cold and to get back on the open road. Your bikes are likely in storage or in the garage or at the various bike shops awaiting repairs and preparation for when you will take them to the streets.

Be assured that while you may not be on your bike during these winter months, you’re not forgotten. There are many motorcycle safety advocates working hard to ensure your highest level of safety when you mount your bikes for that first ride of the season.

Last Friday the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) came to the NTSB to discuss the naturalistic study on which the MSF and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have been working for the past year. The point of the research is to find better safety strategies by tracking the natural day-to-day experience of riders. This is another effort to make your riding experience safer. “Using small video recorders and instrumentation mounted on motorcycles, the study combines unobtrusive, continuous data collection with post-incident interviews to create a comprehensive picture of many factors contributing to both crashes and near-crashes.”

As Evel Knievel, an American icon in extreme sports wrote, “Riding a motorcycle on today’s highways, you have to ride in a very defensive manner. You have to be a good rider and you have to have both hands and both feet on the controls at all times.” Knievel is right. But as I learned in my training, it doesn’t stop there. It’s also important to wear proper protection.

Our goal at the NTSB is to make the riding experience safer, save lives, and reduce injuries. In the last decade, more than 50,000 riders have died in motorcycle-related accidents. That’s far too many. That’s why we do safety studies and issued a series of recommendations for states to enact laws to ensure riders wear the proper protection, most notably a DOT-compliant helmet. And that’s why we are highlighting occupant protection for motorcyclists and all other forms of transportation on this year’s Most Wanted List. We care about your safety and your life; we want you and many more people to live to ride another day.

Riding season is coming soon, but it’s never too early to start thinking safety. Never too early to shop for that helmet, leather gear or take a refresher course. As you prepare your bikes, consider what steps you and your team of riders can take to make the ride even safer. Let’s make this year the safest motorcycle riding season ever.

Nicholas Worrell is a Safety Advocate in the NTSB Office of Communications.