John O. Moore

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Crash Dummies, Vince and Larry

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Moore, director of Cornell University's automobile crash and injury research, discusses why so many people are killed and hurt in automobile accidents.

Jay Nelson Tuck hosts.

Panelists: Barbara Benmolche, Raymond M. Tierney, Jr., and Farrell O'Brien


During Labor Day weekend, about 400 Americans will be killed on highways. The very word "holiday" now means death and injury to far too many of us. Legislation for automobile requirements to reduce fatality in the event of a crash, House resolution 1341. Moore compares regulation of automobile safety to federal food and drug regulation. Disease on the highway is an epidemic .. there are certain ways of inoculating the disease. Door locking mechanism that will reduce the likelihood of the door opening automatically. Ejection has more influence on the severity of an accident than any other aspect. Recessed steering wheel hub and bending spokes. Everything else is installed with an additional charge. Most people don't bother to use seat belts when they're available. Programs to encourage the public to install and use seat belts. Rear end collisions cause whiplash; similar trauma in aircraft is prevented through seat structure. Initiatives to limit the number of cars on the road.

There are more automobiles than tax payers. Any harsh regulation to restrict the number of cars would upset the apple cart of the American economy; the automobile industry controls a large part of the American economy. Federal Safety Program would be very expensive, but the federal government is less likely to be influenced by lobbying than state and local governments. States with enlightenment and knowledge and manufacturers with the same can solve the problem faster than can federal legislation. In the event that action is not taken by these agencies, the Federal government must step in. The government operates a fleet of 275,000 automobiles; equipping these automobiles with safety equipment can have an influence on Detroit auto manufacturers to make this equipment standard for all automobiles. Some regulatory statute must exist to ensure high quality materials.

The more you can bend an automobile, the more energy you are able to absorb in an accident. Accidents and automobiles do not in and of themselves cause injury or death. In fatal automobile accidents, 40 - 45% of the drivers in single car accidents had a blood alcohol level above legal limits. There is no doubt that alcohol plays a great role in accidents. This has no bearing on whether he is injured or killed. In Sweden, the highest level of alcoholism and lowest rate of fatal automobile accidents because of the social unacceptability of driving under the influence. Prohibition proves we can't legally take alcohol away from a driver. We have to approach it on a moral and social plateau. We can't take cigarettes from Americans, but we can take cancer causing agents out of tobacco.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 72072
Municipal archives id: LT8795