December 7, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 10

Special issue: highway safety gets short shrift

Low priority assigned to highway safety among public health needs

Crash deaths exceed 40,000 a year, but society seems to respond with a collective shrug. Highway safety is a low priority when it comes to government funding and media coverage.

Drivers think crashes only happen to other people

Drivers don't recognize the risks in their own behavior.

Education alone doesn't work

Programs that urge people to "drive safely" aren't effective by themselves, but a belief in them persists.

Politics impedes traffic programs aimed at drivers

The United States has missed a lot of opportunities to improve highway safety because of a lack of political support.

U.S. lags behind other countries

Other nations are doing a better job than the U.S. when it comes to reducing highway deaths.

October 26, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 9

Not your father's head restraintNew designs reduce neck injuries

Active head restraints and other improved designs are reducing neck injury claim rates, a new Institute study shows.

Automatic crash notification wouldn't make a difference in most cases

Study finds automatic crash notifications systems would save some lives if they worked perfectly, but not very many.

Audit finds California red light cameras work but lack oversight

The California state auditor has found that red light cameras in the state are reducing crashes but recommended more oversight of the programs.

Many stop sign crashes occur when drivers stop but fail to yield

An Institute study of stop-sign crashes shows that drivers usually stop but often proceed without seeing the other vehicle. Intersection improvements may help.

September 14, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 8

Graduated licensing cuts crashes in learner and intermediate stages

The first long-term study of graduated licensing was conducted in Nova Scotia, which adopted the system in 1994.

Lap belts on school buses won't improve safety in frontal crashes

Adding lap belts to school buses won't make them safer, but lap and shoulder belts would help if they're not misused, NHTSA has concluded.

Per mile and per trip the lowest death rates are on school buses

Death rates measured per mile and per trip during school hours are lowest on school buses. The death rate per trip is highest in passenger vehicles driven by teenagers.

Speed cameras still favored in D.C. despite negative publicity

Eighty-three percent of D.C. residents recently surveyed said they knew speed cameras were being used in the city. Just over half said they were in favor of the cameras.

August 17, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 7

N.Y. ban on hand-held phones persuades many drivers to give them up

The percentage of drivers using handheld phones dropped by more than half after New York passed a law against it.

Risk of phone use while driving isn't easy to pin down

It seems intuitive that talking on a phone while driving would be a bad idea, but is it worse than other distractions? Real-world data on the subject is hard to come by.

Cell phone bills in state legislatures

Lawmakers in at least 22 states have considered bills to prohibit hand-held phone use while driving. Bills to ban all phone use were introduced in eight other states.

Cost of crashes has increased dramatically, NHTSA reports

Motor vehicle crashes cost the United States more than $230 billion in 2000, NHTSA estimates.

Motorcycle deaths in S.D. are mainly associated with Sturgis rally

Most deaths of motorcyclists in South Dakota happen around the time of the annual rally in the tiny town of Sturgis.

June 8, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 6

Many teenagers don't buckle up even when their parents do

Nearly half of teens dropped off at school by their parents weren't wearing their safety belts, an IIHS survey at 12 high schools found.

New sled will simulate crashes, expand testing

The Vehicle Research Center's new HyperG sled will be used first to compare head restraints and seats for whiplash prevention.

European truckers to work much fewer hours in a week

European truck drivers already have stricter limits on driving time than U.S. drivers. Now they're getting a shorter work week too.

May 4, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 5

Special issue: automated enforcement

Results vary, but studies find red light cameras reduce injuries

In Institute review of research on red light cameras finds that some studies overestimate the benefit, while some underestimate it. Overall, the body of evidence shows cameras reduce crashes.

Institute reanalysis confirms red light cameras reduce crashes

Institute researchers took another look at data from an earlier red light camera study at the suggestion of a California lawmaker. The reanalysis confirmed the crash reductions.

Automated traffic enforcement is in use worldwide

Speed cameras and red light cameras have been used for years in Canada, Australia and European countries.

Cameras reduce speeding on D.C. streets

Six months after speed cameras were deployed on seven neighborhood streets, the percentage of drivers going fast enough to get a ticket had fallen on all of them.

April 6, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 4

Improve fuel economy without negative safety consequences

Current fuel economy rules favor the smallest, least protective vehicles. Changes could encourage manufacturers to adopt fuel-saving technology instead of downsizing vehicles.

Passenger vehicle size, weight, fuel consumption and occupant safety

Smaller vehicles consume less fuel, but don't protect their occupants as well as heavier ones. Driver death rates fall as vehicle size increases, up to a point.

Souped-up golf carts hit the streets

Neighborhood electric vehicles are becoming more common because of environmental incentives, but it's dangerous for these glorified golf carts to mix with regular traffic.

Airbag risk is reduced in newest vehicles

Deaths caused by inflating airbags have declined, thanks to education and improved designs.

March 16, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 3

Bumper quality varies for U.S., European versions of the same car

Bumpers on the European version of the Volkswagen New Beetle don't perform as well as the bumpers on the U.S. version.

Bumpers on most small cars don't bump as well as Beetle bumpers

Some automakers make bumpers that prevent excessive damage, but those are the exceptions, the latest round of testing on small cars confirms.

New minivan from Kia sustains $9,747 damage in 5 mph bumper tests

The minivan's worst performance was in the front-into-flat-barrier test, in which the airbags unnecessarily deployed.

Few states are improving laws to enhance safety

Little progress was made in the states in 2001 when it comes to passing new highway safety laws and strengthening the ones on the books.

Pedestrian deaths are on long downward trend

Since 1975, pedestrian fatalities have fallen by half. The greatest progress is among young children.

February 9, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 2

Safety belt reminder system in late-model Fords boosts buckle-up rate

Extended belt reminders in Ford vehicles boost belt use by five percentage points, Institute researchers have found.

Racial differences in belt use are eliminated with good laws

African American drivers are less likely than white or Hispanic drivers to buckle up, but the difference disappears in states with primary belt use laws.

Euro NCAP results spur improvements in crashworthiness

Results in the European vehicle testing program have improved since the program began.

Blacks, Hispanics and less educated have higher crash death rates

Blacks, Hispanic men and people without a high school diploma have higher vehicle death rates per trip.

January 12, 2002 |Volume 37, Number 1

Special issue: motorcycle deaths

Motorcyclist deaths are on the rise, especially among people over 40

The biggest increase is among riders 40 and older, reflecting the changing demographics of motorcyclists.

Today's typical motorcyclist isn't who you think

In 1980 the typical motorcyclist was 24 years old and earned $17,500. Today, the average bike owner is 38 and married and has a white-collar job.

Helmet laws covering all motorcyclists draw opposition

Universal helmet laws are effective but face widespread opposition in the United States.

Motorcyclist deaths go up when states roll back mandatory helmet laws

Research shows that when helmet laws are weakened, fewer riders wear helmets, and fatalities and medical costs go up.

Brain injury can mean lifetime of suffering and lost opportunities

For one young man, the decision to ride without a helmet ended a successful life and made him incapable of caring for himself.