Archive | Road Safety RSS feed for this section

Delivery Driver Required. IMMEDIATE START…

11 Jun

Due to a SUDDEN BEREAVEMENT within our close-knit group of drivers, a vacancy exists for a DRIVER.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH THE TRUCK AT ALL AND THE BRAKES WORK PERFECTLY IT HAS BEEN INSPECTED BY EVERYBODY AND NOTHING IS WRONG IT ALSO HAS A NEW DRIVERS SEAT AND WINDSHIELD.

If you would like to work for a boss who writes everything in CAPITAL LETTERS and is semi-literate but still feels it is necessary to micro-manage his secretary’s advertising copy then please give us a call.

The successful applicant will be HARD WORKING AND LOYAL AND 100% TRUSTWORTHY AND LOYAL. GOOD TEAMWORKER, PUNCTUAL AND NOT DRIVE LIKE A NUTTER.

Pay will be commensurate with experience. The successful candidate will be given a trial period of three weeks, after which they will probably turn down the job because it is very difficult for most people to get on with Dave who runs the company and his brother Mad Eric who services the trucks. Most people leave on day three.

YOU WILL BE HARD WORKING AND LOYAL AND USED TO HARD WORK. LOYALTY WILL BE REWARDED. YOU WILL BE PAID FAIRLY FOR A FULL DAY’S WORK.

Please contact Marjory (me) in the first instance on the number below.

046TRUCK

 

Dorset road deaths are 7 times UK average, 17 times US.

26 Jan
IMG_6700

picture courtesy of Schneebremse

As Dorset Police have reduced the number of traffic officers patrolling the roads, deaths have increased in the UK county.

The Police cuts – applied in 2012 – have coincided with the number of road deaths increasing, reversing the previous trend. The BBC have uploaded an interesting article covering the story here.

Closer examination of the available data on the subject reveals that Dorset may have a far more serious road safety issue than has been reported or realised.

Using a selection of UK and  US government statistics, it can be shown that the county of Dorset actually has a road death toll that is seven times higher per mile than the UK average and is a stunning seventeen times higher than the rate for the United States.

And all this from a mostly rural county that has zero miles of motorway within it.

Roadwax recorded the rate of road deaths per day in comparison to the total miles of road in the county of Dorset. Then, this figure was compared with similar statistics for the whole of the UK and the whole of the US, using the most recent and accurate statistics available for comparison.

The results are shown in the table below.

2012.Dorset road death statsdocx

One issue that is raised by this research is how statistics and data can be shown in different ways to highlight particular arguments.

In this case, the simplest figures have been used and the mathematics is also straightforward. By dividing the number of road deaths into the number of miles of road across the area of Dorset, we get a factor – 1: 2,548.

That is: one road death for each 2,548 miles of road, per day.

If we then divide the miles of road available across the UK and also the US by this figure of 2,548 – we obtain the answers shown in the graph. We then compare the daily deaths recorded in the UK and US with Dorset.

If the answers in the graph are to be believed, then the county of Dorset has a serious road safety issue that needs to be examined urgently.

There is currently a lively and valuable debate being conducted over how road safety campaigns should be translated into actual positive results. You can read a range of localised views here and here. The debate extends nationally and is discussed in recognised road safety forums, such as this one.

But what data is being used to form opinions? Which figures should be used to make up arguments? Twice the fatality rate per mile might be seen as a high figure but seven times the national comparison is alarming.

And to be seventeen times more likely to be killed on a Dorset road than on an American road may provide an interesting starting point for the examination of exactly which road safety data figures are being given the most attention within the media today.

021rwmg

First UK motorist is taught to drive on snow and ice.

12 Jan
A typically devastating scene showing what can happen when snow falls on an English pub.

A typically devastating scene showing what can happen when snow falls on an English pub.

The BBC have released footage of a British driver secretly being taught how to drive on snow and ice. The footage lasts just a few seconds and is hidden within a normal news article.

This news has been greeted with horror by Britain’s biggest safety quango, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Although its own website proudly claims to advise drivers on how to drive on snow, it is actually designed to discourage drivers from venturing out by simply re-posting the same dubious information that was printed in 1955.

RoSPA’s approach to the topic is simple. Load the driver down with so much cautionary advice on planning and multiple check-lists that they simply give up and stay indoors.

Even under the specific section ‘Driving on snow and ice’ – it doesn’t reveal any actual advice on how to drive on snow and ice beyond what is stated in the Police Driver’s Handbook. There is not a single mention of winter tyres, traction control, accelerator technique or gearbox control over-ride.

It instead assumes that you are immediately going to get stuck. Their finest advice is reproduced below:

“…move your vehicle slowly backwards and forwards out of the rut using the highest gear you can. If this doesn’t work, you may have to ask a friendly passerby for a push or get your shovel out…”

and the all-time classic:

“…slow down in plenty of time before bends and corners…”

What can easily happen if you don't "reduce your speed in plenty of time" as RoSPA advise...

What can easily happen if you don’t “reduce your speed in plenty of time” as RoSPA advise…

Roadwax sent special reporter Elena Handcart to ask RoSPA why they are fifty years out of touch with modern techniques for driving on snow and ice. Brian Loadsworth, head of Driver Thinking explained:

“The average British chappie is a little bit of a nuisance when it comes to driving a motor car on snow. We find it is far safer to try and keep him at home, checking his battery charge level and walking around trying to find a shop that will sell him a cavalry tweed car blanket.

The more ordinary people we can leave completely in the dark about snow driving techniques, the more space there is on the roads for bus drivers to pull over and cancel their journey. One really shouldn’t encourage this sort of foolhardy attitude among the workers”.

Thomas Schneebinder from the Stockholm Institute for Common Sense disagrees:

“When I was just six years old, my parents gave me my first Volvo. Like all other normal Swedish drivers, I learned to race old Saabs over packed ice by the time I was twelve. I am surprised that this knowledge is forbidden in Britain. Well done to the BBC for leaking it.”

DSC00026.roadwaxsnowJPG

A post box completely cut off by more than four inches of snow – typical of what Britain may have to endure for up to several days

RoSPA shocked by how ordinary people actually live their lives.

24 Oct

I’ve got nine lives. You ain’t. Deal with it.

RoSPA has expressed shock and dismay that people drive while holding mobile phones.

The ninety year old veteran survivor of countless accidents and a couple of world wars was startled to discover that  people who drive cars through necessity often ignore common-sense advice on the use of mobile phones.

“It beggars belief!” said RoSPA, looking up from his newspaper while eating his breakfast and stroking the cat. “You’d think these people were quite unaware of the risks they were taking. I shall write an article about all this – you see if I don’t!”

Responding to Roadwax’s undercover reporter, RoSPA’s housekeeper and assistant, Verity Crash-Bangwallop, explained that RoSPA doesn’t get out much these days and is quite unaware that the practise has been going on for over twenty-five years.

“He normally gets upset when it comes up in the newspapers every now and then but he’s usually better by the time I bring him his lunch. Last Thursday, he became incandescent when I explained to him that bears are reluctant to use toilet facilities in woodland areas. I just locked myself in the Safety Room until he calmed down. He’s really very nice.”

The matter first came to light when RoSPA was informed by the local Community Support Officer that a youth had been spotted driving in the village while holding a mobile phone. RoSPA immediately wrote a letter to his local MP to highlight the shocking issue and asked the PCSO to keep him informed of any developments.

Local Independent MP Brian Loadsworth explained that RoSPA was quite unaware of the pressures upon normal members of society to receive and transmit data while driving.

“RoSPA is a nice old chap but his idea of driving is to gently ease into his old Mercedes 300TD and potter the half mile to the village shop to buy some matches for his Aga. He is quite unaware that some people spend many hours of the day driving while being pressurised by bosses and clients to provide them with time-sensitive information.”

“When I recently explained that some mothers need to contact child-minders to say that they were stuck in stationary traffic and would be late to pick up their child as a consequence, he was most resolute. He felt certain that this could be easily done while pulling over into a lay-by, switching the engine off and making the call whilst wearing a high visibility jacket at the side of the road. Fortunately, Verity brought us some lunch and the matter was dropped.”

With UK drivers currently being four times more likely to be involved in an accident when using a mobile phone while driving, pressure is on for the Police and also safety experts to find a solution.

A week long initiative by East Scrains Traffic Police to intercept drivers who were holding phones provided valuable results.

“We got our message across. You can’t drive with a mobile phone clamped to your ear. Not when one of our lads has just broken both your legs,” said Det. Insp Darren Shaft. “We usually get caught up in this nonsense debate about once a year. If we come down too hard then we lose the trust of the public. But we have to be seen to do something. We refer to it as “culling”. It ticks all the boxes and lets us get on with our real jobs.”

Dame Elizabeth Jobs-Agoodun from the road safety charity MENACE was more scathing.

“The threat of being sidelined by your boss for demanding that your car be supplied with the latest telecommunications equipment is no excuse. Working people should live within their means and ensure that they are perfectly educated in all aspects of the instruction manual provided with their leased vehicle. It really isn’t good enough.”

A simple and inexpensive campaign suggested by Roadwax to provide cheap Bluetooth hands-free kits to all motorists for the same price as a Cornish Pasty was launched today.

Det Insp Darren Shaft was not convinced.

“So, where did you get hold of all these then? Let’s ‘ave a look in the back of your van. Hands where I can see them…”

Honey, would you park up my P-51D Mustang and help me with the shopping…?

25 May

Ikea, here we come…!

Summer has arrived and Roadwax wants to feed you with a funny little anecdote that is both utterly stupid and completely true. You won’t easily believe this story, but there is an awful lot of written evidence that supports it.

First, I must transport you back to 1945 and England, Europe. To help you get into the atmosphere of those times, I suggest that before you continue reading, you complete the following simple tasks so that you get into the mood for what follows.

Firstly, take everything out of your refrigerator and let it warm up on the kitchen table. Cover yourself in subway dust and comb low-fat spread through your hair. Rub a mixture of cheese and brown paint over your teeth and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea…

Now, we can begin.

The war against Hitler had just ended. Germany and England lay in smoking ruins and France looked like it had accidentally posted it’s home address on Facebook and invited everyone round for a free Jack Daniels tasting session.

Without wasting a moment of time, English town planners sat around a big mahogany table and came up with ideas for how England would rebuild itself. This was not very difficult to start off, since almost everyone had been issued with a pair of Army boots and there were also an awful lot of half-bricks lying around.

A plan to build this “New England” emerged pretty quickly. All the obvious and sensible stuff was done first. A free National Health Service was set up to stop the working population from lynching the ruling elite. The State School system was encouraged to educate children with the skills needed for industry rather than simply beating them to within an inch of their lives for forgetting the second verse of that hit song: “God Save The King”.

But then it started to get wacky and kooky. Possibly because there was too much sugar in the biscuits during afternoon tea, the ideas began to reflect some pretty startling visions of a future world of mass high-speed travel.

It was decided that each major town in England should set aside space for a Municipal Aerodrome and prepare to welcome society arriving from the air.

Why?

Because the war had resulted in fantastic advances in flight, aeronautical technology and manufacturing techniques!

So what?

Well, if you remove the eight Browning machine guns from a Hawker Hurricane, you get a rather dashing little conveyance for the weekend! The Spitfire is ideal for visiting the seaside once you nail another seat inside. The American P-51D is a “must-have” toy for the Gentleman Sportsman or weekend enthusiast.

But…we already have cars to drive in…! Isn’t this a bit excessive?

Not at all. In the “New England”, men in pin-stripe suits and bowler hats will be so busy making important decisions that they shall need to rush from meeting to meeting, unhindered by the common man in his 1933 12 BHP Austin. Each town shall build an aerodrome, right next to the shops and the golf course!

Are you sure about this?

Absolutely! And stand up straight when you salute me…and straighten your tie!

(And so it was that throughout England, the Town Plans that were drawn up in the period 1944-1946 show provision for “municipal aerodromes” – built to cater for the many light aircraft that the many English middle class shakers and movers would soon own and fly. Provision was made for what would become, without doubt, the fast-moving new world where society’s decision-makers would transport themselves in one of these new, easily-affordable light aeroplanes as a matter of daily routine).

Once the town planners across England had set aside the necessary fields and used their best wooden rulers to draw a runway and a   small car park where chauffeurs could polish the Bentley and stand in deference, a strange thing happened.

Maybe it was because the Automobile Association of Great Britain pointed out that they already spent far too much of their time  pouring gasoline into the tanks of stranded cars whose owners were too dumb to read a map or understand a simple fuel gauge…

Maybe it was because the Police pointed to the number of dented or missing railings and lamp posts on the road that led away from the local golf course club-house…

Maybe it was because it was remembered how, during the war, many bombers had taken off and then crashed within the first minute because their pilots had been so drunk that they were incapable of standing, let alone focusing on an instrument panel…

…but it was decided to quietly drop these plans.

Our “Brave New World” would be a much safer one if we pin-heads were instead firmly anchored to the ground with four rubber tyres and given a shiny chrome grille where the propeller would otherwise be. As a compromise, American cars were given tail-fins.  British cars were given tail-feathers.

And nothing more was said about this brilliant idea to allow everyone to just hop in a plane and fly to the shops in the next town. Those among us who actually had the intellect and reaction speed to fly an aircraft were sold a Cessna or a Beachcraft Bonanza. The rest of us would learn to say the words “Business Class” and “check-in queue”. The town planners erased all their pencil lines and the ‘aerodromes’ were no more.

But many of the original plans are still there on the dusty shelves of local councils and occasionally can be found hiding in old book shops.

Testimony to a brief moment in society’s evolution where, in an act of delightfully misjudged lunacy, we were all to be offered our own pair of wings.

A good car to have a crash in…? Part 4

2 Mar

This is the final part in this mini – series on how to choose a car that can save your life.

If you haven’t read parts 1, 2 and 3 then I suggest you do before reading this so that you can make better sense of the points raised in this particular post.

The latest figures released for America and Western Europe suggest that the cars we drive on the road are approximately ten years old on average. Personally, I am surprised to read this. I would have thought that the ‘average’ would have been younger – closer to seven. However, I simply cannot find data that contradicts this claim and so I shall have to accept it.

A good car to have a crash in is one that will maximise our chances of survival and minimise our chances of becoming “KSI” – Killed or Seriously Injured.

At this point, we can all imagine in our minds a few particular cars that we might choose to be in, solidly manufactured by makers who have a long and proven reputation for collision safety research and who build large and well-upholstered cars. ‘Large’ cars? No – hang on – we are already becoming confused.  Just because it is large does not mean that it better protects us from KSI. Yes, it may be scientifically correct that a large car is likely to better survive a collision with a small car, but large cars do not necessarily save us from being KSI. Ask Princess Diana.

We have to look carefully now at a whole range of factors and ‘values’ to understand how to make the best choice.  If “large cars from reputable manufacturers” are good to have a crash in, three questions immediately pop up:

1) Will manufacturers or insurance companies reveal KSI data for these cars?    Answer: No.

2) Is it easier to quickly alter the direction of travel of a large car compared to a small car?  Answer: No.

3) If both large and small cars are driven at 100 kph into an unmovable concrete block, is KSI data identical?  Answer: Yes.

To find out what is really going on with modern cars and to make an informed choice, we must go back and look again at the three ‘interested parties’ involved in a collision: The Car – The Occupants – The Investigation. I call this: “The Facebook Triangle”;  each player has an opposing self-interest. Let me explain it to you.

The car manufacturer works hard to build a car with a low KSI factor, including safety by design, by build quality and by product testing.  In the real world we live in, the manufacturer will only go so far before the budget dictates that they release the car on to the market.

The crash investigator visits cars that have been involved in KSI collisions and tries hard to establish what  factors caused the KSI result. Although the investigator may see obvious reasons for KSI that were not actually  to do with the car itself, for example – a 100 ton tree falling on the car when it was stationary, the investigator will still have to attribute a KSI cause – “car roof structural integrity failure”.

The driver and passengers of the car unintentionally became involved in a collision. Effectively – if we are accurate – the driver ran out of ways of avoiding the collision and therefore became involved. The driver now hopes that the car will protect them as a last resort.

There are three players involved: the manufacturer, the investigator, the driver. All three have totally different aims. The manufacturer is trying to avoid having KSI data attached to its product, the investigator has to attach a cause of KSI to the product. Lastly, the driver (or their surviving relatives) is hoping that the cause of KSI is not attributed to the driver.

By accepting the above scenario, we can see a greater truth emerging:

A mass-produced, affordable commuter car will attract more KSI “hits” than an expensive luxury car simply on the basis that it is generally driven for more miles, driven by a more diverse range of drivers, driven in more diverse circumstances.

So, manufacturers of large luxury cars do not want to reveal accurate KSI data because it might actually show that, mile for mile in the real world, that precise model of car has similar or more KSI hits than a competitor’s standard ‘budget’ car. Manufacturers of standard ‘budget’ cars don’t want to discuss KSI openly for fear that their product gets unfairly associated with a high KSI. We can see their point because many more unskilled or otherwise dangerous drivers will drive their product instead of an expensive luxury car.

Collision investigators have to attribute a cause of KSI. If they keep writing down “…I don’t know but, jeez, the driver was completely like spaghetti once he’d been passed through all the round dials on the dashboard…” they are only hanging on to their jobs by their fingertips. Accuracy is key.

And then, there is the driver. We drivers come in all shapes and sizes and skill levels. The collision investigator and the manufacturer want to ask us – in all seriousness – “…could you have avoided that collision?…”  We rarely answer “Yes.” When looking at KSI data, it is often difficult to separate out the acts of the driver from the behavior of the car. For example, did a car leave the road because it has poor road-holding or handling characteristics or else did the driver fail to use the car’s controls correctly?

Several popular manufacturers currently have cars on the road which, technically speaking, have fatally flawed handling characteristics.

More truth emerges: Insurance companies sift through the data of KSI. They have close access to that accurate data. Do they reveal the accurate, dissected data? Absolutely not. It is competitively sensitive. However, they do often put pressure on manufacturers to improve their products. They sometimes do this quite bluntly by telling the manufacturer to improve a particular car or else the insurer will effectively “kill it off” by use of high insurance premiums.

Conversely, the ‘People Carrier’ design of car emerged partly because insurance companies noted a new KSI trend: where two vehicles collided and one vehicle had its occupants seated higher than the centre of gravity of the other, (say, a conventional car) much of the collision shock passed underneath them. The obvious flaw in this initial advantage was that it canceled itself out if all vehicles were designed in that same way and it also raised the centre of gravity, increasing the chance of the People Carrier turning over.

To find out which car is good to have a crash in, we have to run all the data backwards. Instead of looking at all the shiny cars we have available to us and then wondering which one to drive, we must imagine each one already crashed and stationary, its occupants still inside. By doing so, stark realities become clear that were previously obscure.

All cars perform worse as more occupants and luggage are added to them. Regardless of size, if the car is carrying maximum occupants and maximum luggage, that luggage and those occupants increase the distance needed to stop or evade, increase the kinetic energy that has to be dissipated in the collision, reduce the interior space available to act as a ‘free zone’ where there are no obstructions.

All humans become KSI if their internal organs are subject to an impact above approximately 27mph. When we watch film of cars being crash tested, we see how the manufacturer tries to solve this problem by making the car’s passenger compartment slow down ‘progressively’. This is done  by transferring the impact forces away from the compartment and ‘soaking up’ as much force as possible in the parts of the car that are outside the passenger compartment – the engine compartment and the luggage compartment in particular. These areas are particularly used to make impact shocks to the passengers become more softened.

Airbags and flexible interior trim add more shock-reduction still, so the more of them one has, the better overall. They convert those sudden shocks and impacts into a series of more gradual ones. That passenger compartment has to keep it’s integrity, leaving the passengers with room to move inside it as the actual impact takes place. So, a sophisticated manufacturer can turn a crash at above 30mph into a series of decelerations, each one lower than 25mph, the g-forces dissipated as much as possible within the time frame of the collision.

Drivers and occupants often survive high-speed crashes because their car actually is involved in a series of collisions within that one event and each individual impact is lower than 25mph. For example, suffering a tyre failure at 100mph (lose 10mph), bounce off the railing (lose 15mph), skid diagonally across three lanes (lose 20mph), bounce off a truck (lose 20mph), bounce backwards into another vehicle (lose 20mph) and then skid to a halt (the final 15mph). Far better than hitting one item at 100mph.

Since the vast majority of crashes are head on, it is wise to design the front of a car so that it sequentially changes shape during an accident, altering the onward course of the car. This is best illustrated by looking at a Formula 1 racing car. Notice how the driver sits in a narrow canoe-like pod with a pointed nose? What would happen if two racing cars were to collide head on? The two passenger compartments would slide past each other, decelerating more slowly over a longer time period as  ‘sacrificial’ parts – front wheels and suspension – take the brunt of the forces. Clever stuff.

So some newer cars have their mechanical components angled such that they will fold inwards and downwards, reducing the chance of the vehicle stopping dead or becoming interlocked with another vehicle. Their suspension and wheels will progressively shear off as forces rise, their passenger doors will interlock with their door frames to provide a continuous structure instead of acting as a separate panel.

Walking among the lines of crashed cars in a recovery yard, I became aware that one category of car rarely appeared: the car with four new tyres. It was disproportionately absent. I checked this with my calculator and this car was under-represented by a factor of 75% in a yard made up of 175 cars. Those “missing” cars were not there in the yard because they had managed to stop in time or else swerved to avoid the crash.

Think on that. They never actually got involved in the crash. The crash never happened.

“A good car to have a crash in…?” has been a series of articles intended to help you make informed decisions and good risk assessment. In real life, a good car to have a crash in is a two to three year old medium-sized or large car from a reputable manufacturer, carrying a five-star (maximum) safety rating. Its occupants are average build, seated and belted correctly and relaxing as the airbags explode to meet them.

A good car to avoid having a crash in?  Well, that is a different question!

A good car to have a crash in…? Part 3 – READER DISCRETION ADVISED

17 Feb

While researching this article, I have had to make some difficult editorial decisions. I refer you, dear reader, back to that very first Roadwax post which sets out my broad views about censorship.

Regrettably, I cannot tell you what I believe you should know without including some facts that may distress some readers. I do not wish to make this article appear as a ‘wise owl’ plod through statistics, farmed from reports and topped with a few vague suggestions. This is not a cut-and-paste job for a Sunday magazine. It is a genuine attempt by me to help keep my readers alive by having them empowered through their understanding of a serious issue.

Although I believe that children who are old enough to read should be old enough to also learn how to keep themselves safe, this post is not suitable for kids.

I am also stating here and now that you can skip this article and read the forthcoming “Part 4” and still benefit from a greater  understanding of how to choose a safe car. If you continue beyond this paragraph, please understand that some factual data below is distressing to read. I do not wish to sensationalize, I wish to put clarity in your mind.

On average five people get killed on British roads each day and almost sixty get “KSI” – killed or seriously injured. Deaths and injuries are declining but only by fractions of a percent and there are many complicating factors involved in dissecting even the simplest statistics on the Department for Transport website.

Other countries across the world have their own figure but one point is common to all countries: the KSI figure is unacceptably high and needs to be seen as a tragic and traumatic reminder of the human cost of mechanizing one’s population.

At this point, let us put aside how and why we crash. Being drunk, on drugs, distracted or losing control of your car or your judgement are examples that explain ‘how’ and ‘why’. Being caught in the path of somebody else who ticks any of those boxes may also make you an innocent victim.

Let us instead look at what happens in a crash.

We are all familiar with the Crash Test Dummy. These are replicas of humans, adjustable and modifiable to imitate how a human’s  body will most likely behave in a collision. Early ‘dummies’ were recently deceased corpses and even living volunteers but now these sophisticated replicas do the work.

We can watch hundreds of hours of YouTube film that shows us cars colliding with scientifically measured objects and we see what happens to the dummies. Other uploaded films show real-life collisions captured on camera and the effects on real humans. We must now make sense of what we see because there is almost no explanation attached to the footage we watch and this is itself unhelpful.

Each “crash” involves three “collisions”. The first is the car hitting an object and slowing sharply. The second collision is the passenger being hit by the g-force of slowing down, hitting the restraint systems or interior of the car. The third collision is the internal organs of the human passenger colliding with the retaining skin, skull and rib-cage of their body.

Now, we can see the limitations of the Crash Test Dummy. Researchers have to pre-load mathematical values into the crash data of a dummy because a dummy does not have a living brain or living organs.

Collision data gathered from real life crashes is far more valuable than might be expected.

A co-worker of mine called Dave once lost control of his Mercedes van and monumentally stuffed it into a wall, backwards. He was treated at the scene for shock, cuts and bruises by paramedics and again later on at hospital. He was released from hospital but collapsed within hours. Nobody had noticed a tiny, bloodless hole among his bruises. The ball point pen which he had left on the ledge below the speedometer had been launched backwards towards him during the crash. As his body twisted sideways the pen entered below his armpit, between the ribs, punctured his lung and then exited as his arm swung back and removed it. The pen was later found down by the pedals, thinly coated with the fluids from inside his body.

He recovered and returned to work. The rest of us spent our time debating furiously and fruitlessly over the safest place for a pen to be placed in our van’s cab. We eventually gave up and put them back…on the ledge…below the speedometer. Put it in the glove box? The glove box lid from Dave’s Mercedes was never found so we crossed that idea off the list early on in the debate.

This startling randomeness of real-life crash data evokes a behavioral response among emergency personnel involved in routinely attending serious collisions. It becomes necessary to cope with the unimaginable, the tragic and the completely insane world they encounter. Working with an established vehicle recovery operator, my own life changed forever. My daily contact with grieving and traumatized relatives and witnesses, handling body parts of the recently deceased, helping the Police and agencies reconstruct the last moments and cause of death of a stranger all taught me so much.

Two lessons that we discovered were deeply uncomfortable but also most enlightening.

Regardless of the car that the person drives, be it safe or unsafe, the advances in medical paramedic skills have significantly increased collision victims’ survival rates. More people’s lives are saved by prompt paramedic skill on the scene than ever before and this improves the survival statistics. One extreme example is the simplest way of linking this first fact to the next one. I have removed ‘identifiers’ from this following true story. It will make you think.

A woman was driving her medium sized car to work at 30mph on a wet road. Coming towards her round the bend was a 3 ton van, driving at 50mph. The male driver slid wide on the bend and the two vehicles met, directly and symmetrically head-on. The impact pushed the car 60 feet backwards down the road.

Paramedics and Police were on the scene almost immediately. The driver of the van was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis. He had bruising and minor cuts. The female driver of the car was alive and sober. As the collision became inevitable, she had pushed both feet hard to the brake and clutch pedals. As the collision impact compressed the cabin in front of her, her hip bones had dislocated and her legs had traveled upwards, outside her rib cage but beneath her skin.

Paramedics were able to sustain her but she died later in hospital. Her survival that far illustrates the astonishing support for life that can now be deployed.

This account illustrates the second fact. Given the extreme but short-lived forces involved in many collisions, occupants of a car often reduce injury to themselves if their bodies are relaxed at the time of impact. If their body muscles are relaxed, they often escape greater injury when excessive force is applied to limbs and torso. Obviously, the unique and complex events of each collision involve many factors. However, it was apparent from our own empirical data as a business that drunk and therefore relaxed drivers were “walking away” from their heavily crushed vehicles more often than drivers who were sober and tense as they crashed in similar circumstances.

If, as either a car passenger or a driver, you realise that you are about to collide unavoidably with an object, you may decide to serve your body well by relaxing and making like a Crash Test Dummy.

© 2012 Loop Withers Roadwax.com

%d bloggers like this: