Professor Adrian Hobbs, CBE, TRL’s former Head of Crashworthiness and Chief Research Scientist, who served between 1972 and 2003, and Professor Richard Lowne, OBE, TRL’s former Head of Biomechanics and Chief Research Scientist, who served for 40 years before retiring in 2003; were both pivotal in the development of more stringent vehicle safety testing criteria. 

The frontal impact test procedure introduced far more realistic test conditions and biomechanical criteria and this formed part of the Euro NCAP evaluation in 1997. It was adopted into UN Regulation 94 exactly 20 years ago today on 1st October 1998 replacing existing frontal safety testing standards that relied upon an earlier concept of a full-width, ridged barrier test to assess a vehicle’s safety credentials. Using real-world collision data, similar to the current RAIDS database, Hobbs and Lowne identified that, in most collisions of this type, there was a partial overlap of a vehicle’s front sections, typically of around 50%. They also established that the impact loading resulting from the limited structural engagement exposed vehicle occupants to increased risk of impacting the car’s interior, becoming trapped or crushed.

David Ward, Global NCAP Secretary General, believes TRL’s research in this field has been fundamental in improving the outcomes for people involved in head-on vehicle collisions. Ward said: “Frontal collisions cause more deaths and serious injuries than any other type of vehicle accident. The research carried out by TRL under the leadership of Adrian Hobbs identified the essential characteristics of a frontal crash test which would ensure that cars were designed to absorb the impact energy in their frontal structures so avoiding passenger compartment collapse and providing a survival space for the occupant restraint systems to function correctly.

“Thanks to the pioneering work of TRL, safety standards for vehicle manufacturers are now far superior and the ODB frontal crash test has contributed to an estimated 78,000 saved lives in Europe over a twenty-year period.”

Echoing the sentiments expressed by David Ward, TRL’s current Head of Biomechanics and Chief Research Scientist, David Hynd, said he was committed to continuing his predecessors’ work. David comments: “TRL has a rich heritage as one of the world’s leading innovators in transport and mobility, a heritage that has been enhanced thanks to the outstanding research overseen by both Adrian and Richard during their tenure. 

“We’re extremely proud of Global NCAP’s recognition of TRL’s contribution in this area and, as an organisation committed to innovation, pledge to continue the legacy of setting new benchmarks in vehicle safety long into the future.”

The Global NCAP World Congress took place between 26th – 29th September 2018, and offered delegates – from policy makers to vehicle manufacturers – the opportunity to share experiences about independent consumer vehicle safety ratings. The summit also provided a platform to assess the contribution that safer vehicles can make to the United Nations’ Decade of Action for Road Safety and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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