The Value of IIHS Safety Ratings

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a non-profit organization that performs testing and research on new cars in order to assign safety ratings.  The IIHS conducts various crash tests on new vehicles and assigns ratings based on how they do. They have five main tests to determine crashworthiness: Moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint. They then rate the vehicles as “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal,” or “poor” in each test. While there are undoubtedly numerous factors in addition to vehicle design which effect a vehicle’s crash worthiness, the IIHS tests have proven to be fruitful. Their ratings help consumers make better informed decisions and have pushed automakers to produce safer vehicles.  A comparison of death and injury reductions for vehicles with a “good” versus a “poor” rating in IIHS tests shows the following:
  • Front offset with moderate overlap test: Fatality risk in head-on crashes is 46% lower
  • Side Impact Crash Test: Fatality risk in side impact crashes 70% lower
  • Rear Impact Test (seat only): Neck injury risk in rear crashes is 15% lower and the risk of neck injury requiring 3+ months treatment is 35% lower

Automatic Braking Systems may become standard in Passenger Vehicles

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a special report that calls for automatic braking system to become standard in all cars. The board asserts that avoidance systems can help to prevent and lessen the severity of rear-end collisions. Since the NTSB does not actually set policy, its report is essentially an appeal to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require new cars and trucks to include an automatic braking system.

In the report, the NTSB cited statistics from 2012 which indicated 1,700 deaths and 500,000 injuries occurred as a result of rear-end collisions. The board believes that an electronic avoidance system could have mitigated up to 80% of these deaths and injuries.

The automatic braking systems that the NTSB would like to make standard in new vehicles relies on a camera and laser radar technology to stop or slow down a car if it detects an object ahead, including another vehicle. The technology is currently available from most automotive manufacturers as part of a special safety package costing several hundred dollars extra. However, automakers remain reluctant to make it a standard feature.

The NTSB report criticizes “slow and insufficient action” by NHTSA, with regard to implementing this as standard technology in passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as “a lack of incentives for manufacturers” that have the ability to put the technology in more vehicles but only offer it in more expensive models.

The report advises manufacturers to add collision-warning systems and emergency braking into all vehicles. The NTSB also advises consumers to consider vehicles that have collision warning and emergency braking functions.

Electronic Stability Control is coming for Motorcycles

When electronic stability control (ESC) first appeared on luxury cars in the 1990s, its effect was described as “the hand of God”, reaching down and righting the driver’s mistakes.  But what vehicle is less tolerant of mistakes than a motorcycle, with its propensity to tip over and subsequently expose its rider to all manner of pain and suffering?  What if, as with ESC, engineers developed a system that would stand in the background, unnoticed, waiting to reach out with its electronic hand at just the instant when the bike is poised to tumble? What you’d have is something not unlike the Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control System (MSC). It is fitted to the Ducati 1299 Panigale superbike and KTM 1190 Adventure, while BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle subsidiary of BMW Group, employs some of its components in conjunction with the company’s own designs on all its models. Bosch’s development objective was not for the computer to ride the bike automatically, but to serve as an otherwise invisible safety net for riders, says Frank Sgambati, director of marketing and product innovation at Bosch’s North America division. “The draw for motorcycle riding is the excitement,” he acknowledges. “We don’t want to interfere with or change that experience. We only want [MSC] to appear in panic situations.” Anti-lock braking, a feature that helps dramatically reduce the likelihood of a crash, has been around for many years for motorcycles.  Bosch’s MSC system builds on its existing ABS hardware, adding a yaw and pitch sensor to the ABS module so that the computer knows how far over the bike is leaning and whether it is tilting upward from acceleration or downward from braking.  This may all seem like wonderful news for the cause of motorcycle safety, if only MSC were available on less expensive bikes to accommodate new riders, who would most stand to benefit from such a system.

NHTSA to Require ESC for Commercial Trucks and Buses

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued its long-awaited final rule to require electronic stability control (ESC) systems on Class 7-8 trucks and large buses.  The rule, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 136, will take effect for “most heavy trucks” in 2017, according NHTSA. The agency said that compliance will be achieved using a “J-turn” test that replicates a curved highway off-ramp.   “ESC is a remarkable safety success story, a technology innovation that is already saving lives in passenger cars and light trucks,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said upon introducing the new rule on June 3. “Requiring ESC on heavy trucks and large buses will bring that safety innovation to the largest vehicles on our highways, increasing safety for drivers and passengers of these vehicles and for all road users.” According to NHTSA, the mandate was needed because “ESC works instantly and automatically to maintain directional control in situations where the driver’s own steering and braking cannot be accomplished quickly enough to prevent the crash.”  The agency stated that implementing “ESC will prevent up to 56 percent of untripped, rollover crashes– that is, rollover crashes not caused by striking an obstacle or leaving the road.” NHTSA estimates the rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries and 49 fatalities annually. The American Trucking Association said it welcomed the mandate. “Ensuring the safety of America’s highways has always been ATA’s highest calling,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “and we’ve long known the positive role technology can play in making our vehicles and our roads safer. Today’s announcement by NHTSA will reduce crashes on our highways and make our industry safer.”  “Last month, NHTSA reported to Congress that truck rollover and passenger ejection were the greatest threats to truck driver safety,” said ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki. “We can save lives by preventing rollovers with electronic stability control technology, and that’s a positive for our industry. Many fleets have already begun voluntarily utilizing this technology and this new requirement will only speed that process.”

NHTSA proposes standards to prohibit novelty helmets

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed standards that would effectively ban novelty helmets—helmets that don’t meet DOT standards but are frequently marketed and sold for on-road use.  The proposal establishes preliminary screening criteria to help law enforcement agencies quickly identify helmets that are incapable of meeting the minimum performance requirements. The preliminary screening involves examining the thickness of the inner liner and the outer shell, and of the liner’s ability to resist deformation, which indicates its ability to absorb crash energy. “Motorcycle rider deaths are disproportionally high. Our nation lost 4,668 motorcyclists in 2013 alone and protective helmets could have saved many of those lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Motorcycle helmets that meet DOT safety standards help save more than a thousand lives every year, according to NHTSA estimates. A study of motorcyclists injured in crashes and transported to a shock trauma centers showed that 56 percent of those wearing a novelty helmet had serious head injuries, compared to 19 percent of riders who were wearing a DOT-certified helmet. “Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. “Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection.” Click here to view the full proposal.

How to tell the age of your tires

It is fairly well accepted that tires should be replaced after they are 6 or 7 years old.  The rubber compound in tires which are older than 6 or 7 years can begin to deteriorate, causing the tire to become stiff or brittle.  However, it is important to note that the “shelf-life” clock for tires begins ticking as soon as the tire is manufactured, not when the tire is purchased.  In order tell the age of a tire, date codes are stamped into all new tires.  The date code typically consists of four digits: the first 2 digits indicate the week in which the tire was made and the last 2 digits represent the year.  As an example: if the date code reads 3710 then the tire was manufactured in the 37th week of 2010.  If your tire has only 3 digits in the date code that indicates that it was made prior to 2000, probably time to replace it.

ATV Safety Institute to offer free training

The ATV Safety Institute will launch ATV Safety Week June 6-14 and will be working with partners across the country that have volunteered to provide free ATV RiderCourse training and other ATV safety education opportunities.   ATV Safety Week is a great time to learn about the proper operation of your machine, find out about helmets and other proper protective gear, and learn ways to dramatically reduce risk for riders.  ASI is working with partners all across the country that have volunteered to provide free ATV RiderCourse training during ATV Safety Week. Free training will be available at the following locations:
  • Anza, Calif. – Coach 2 Ride
  • Rancho Cordova, Calif. – Prairie City
  • Campo, Calif. – Golden Acorn Casino
  • El Centro, Calif. – Superstition
  • Lakewood, Colo. – Thunder Valley MX Park
  • Daytona Beach, Fla. – Volusa OHV Training Center
  • Columbia, Ga. – Riley
  • Maquoketa, Iowa – Jackson County Fairgrounds
  • Grand Rivers, Ky. – Grand Rivers
  • Fordland, Mo. – Rogersville
  • Laurel, Mont. – Butler Property
  • Laurel, Mont. – Laurel High School parking lot / Safety Day
  • Hamilton, Mont. – Al’s Cycle Yamaha
  • Great Falls, Mont. – Rainbow Motorsports
  • Lowville, N.Y. – Flat Rock
  • Warsaw, N.Y. – Hume Arena
  • Lowville, N.Y. – Flat Rock
  • Garber, Okla. – Garber
  • Prineville, Ore – Prineville Christian Church
  • Coal Township, Pa. – Anthracite Outdoor Adventure
  • York, Pa. – Don’s Kawasaki Yamaha Polaris
  • Elizabethtown, Pa. – Hernley’s Polaris Victory
  • Big Spring, Texas – Outback Adventure Track
  • San Angelo, Texas – Porter Henderson Yamaha
  • Winchester, Va. – Valley Cycle Center
  • 9 Miles Falls, Wash. – 7 Mile Park
  • Harpers Ferry, W.Va. – Riverfront Motorsport Park
  The ATV RiderCourse is free for anyone who signs up during ATV Safety Week.  To sign up for a class, call (800) 887-2887. The ATV RiderCourse is also free year-round for anyone who buys a new, qualifying ATV from an ATV Safety Institute member company.

Early Projections Indicate Motorcycle Fatalities Declined in 2014

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is projecting that motorcycle fatalities decreased for the second straight year in 2014, based on preliminary state data. GHSA motorcyclist fatality trend reports, produced annually since 2010, offer an early look at current data and developing issues. GHSA projects the final motorcyclist fatality total for 2014 will be 4,584, or about 1.8 percent less than the 4,668 recorded in 2013. This will be the second straight year in which this number has decreased and only the third decrease since 1997. While the projected decline in motorcyclist fatalities is good news, the report also points out that motorcycle safety progress lags behind that of other motor vehicles. For example, in 2013, the rate of motorcyclist fatalities per registered vehicle was about the same as in 1997, whereas during that time period the rate of fatalities per passenger vehicle dropped 66 percent. Safety improvements to passenger vehicles, such as structural improvements to vehicle design, increases in seat belt use, electronic stability controls and policies such as graduated driver licensing, account for a large portion of the decline in passenger vehicles but do not impact motorcyclists.  There is little evidence that risk factors for motorcyclists have been reduced in recent years, and fluctuations in motorcyclist fatalities are likely to have more to do with economic factors and weather patterns affecting exposure. “We are glad to see a continued decrease in motorcyclist fatalities, but the number of motorcyclist deaths on our roadways is still unacceptable,” said Kendell Poole, GHSA chairman and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety. “While we support technology advances such as antilock brake systems and traction control, state laws and behavioral changes are critical to saving more motorcyclist lives.”  Poole also encouraged all states to adopt universal helmet laws and said, “By far, helmets are the single most effective way to prevent serious injury and death in the event of a motorcycle crash.” In addition to increasing helmet use, the report also recommends that states focus on motorcycle safety programs that:
  • Reduce alcohol impairment.In 2013, 28 percent of fatally injured riders had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of .08.
  • Reduce speeding.According to the most recent data, 34 percent of riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with 21 percent for passenger vehicle drivers.
  • Ensure motorcyclists are properly licensed.In 2013, 25 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes did not have a valid motorcycle license, compared to 13 percent of passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes.
  • Encourage all drivers to share the road with motorcyclists.According to NHTSA, when motorcycles crash with other vehicles, the other driver is often at fault. Many states conduct “share the road” campaigns to increase awareness of motorcyclists.