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Fatality risk for belted drivers vs. car mass

, : Fatality risk for belted drivers vs. car mass. Accident Analysis and Prevention 17(3): 251-271

How the likelihood of a belted driver being killed in a single car crash depends on the mass of the car was determined. This was done by applying the pedestrian fatality exposure approach to the subset of fatalities in the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) for which the driver was coded as using a shoulder belt and/or a lap belt. Combining the 1975-1982 data provided a sufficiently large population of belted drivers to perform the analysis. In the exposure approach used, the number of car drivers killed in single car crashes is divided by the number of nonoccupant fatalities (pedestrians or motorcyclists) associated with the same group of cars. The ratio is interpreted to reflect the physical effect of car mass, essentially independent of driver behavior effects. Car mass effects for belted drivers were determined by considering the number of belted drivers killed divided by the number of nonoccupants killed in crashes involving cars whose drivers were coded in the FARS files as being belted. Because the belt use of surviving drivers is, to some extent, self-reported, it is considered that the data given in the report should be not used to estimate the effectiveness of seat belts in preventing fatalities. The results are presented as graphical and analytical comparisons of fatality likelihood vs. car mass for belted and unbelted drivers. The effect of car mass on relative driver fatality likelihood is apparently essentially the same for belted and unbelted drivers (for example, the present analysis gives that a belted driver in a 900 kg car is 2.3 times as likely to be killed in a single car crash as is the belted driver in an 1800 kg car. The corresponding ratio determined here for unbelted drivers is 2.4). As a consequence of this conclusion, the relative effectiveness of seat belts in preventing driver fatalities is similar for cars of different masses.


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