On the history of automotive-safety, and inside-the-cab modifications

#1
I listened to a fascinating podcast over the weekend from "99% Invisible," a nerdy and interesting design-podcast. This particular episode is called "The Nut Behind the Wheel" https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/nut-behind-wheel/ and discusses the history of safety and design in the automotive industry. It's hard to believe today, but it wasn't really until the 1960's that anyone in the car industry even considered that a car could or should be designed with safety in mind. For people obsessed with vehicle-based travel, it's a good listen. One caveat up-front: while 99PI isn't an overtly political podcast, it is definitely leftward-leaning and they draw some comparisons between the relative regulation of automotive and firearm safety. That's not the primary focus of the episode (rather, its the history of automotive safety) but they conclude the episode with that argument, so I wanted to mention it up-front because I know ExPo's rules prohibit political posts. My posting the link here isn't an endorsement of the opinion, it's just that the history portion of the episode is worth the listen so take the rest as you will.

Specific Overlanding Take-Away: the episode highlights how auto-accident statistics ultimately were used to inform design. For instance, people kept being killed/impaled by hard angular dashboards and/or large knobs and levers in the cab during accidents, so those items were removed from the design and replaced with padded dash-boards, etc. This got me thinking about all the electronics (navs, comms, etc.) that we like to install into overland rigs and it never previously occurred to me how those mods might effect safety. So here's a question: in an accident, could a poorly placed RAM-mount, or equivalent, kill you? I don't mean to pick on RAM here because I'm really talking about any in-cab modification, but RAM's brand is nearly synonymous with its product category (like Ziplock), so it serves a good example.

I regularly hear a lot of good safety advice in the overland community: don't put heavy loads on the roof, get an air-bag-compliant bumper, secure all your gear in case of a roll-over, etc. but I can't say I hear much about in-cab modifications and their potential safety impact. Do I have my head in the sand?
 
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plh

Explorer
#2
Anything added or subtracted from the vehicle as delivered by the OEM changes the human survivability risk factor being it was not included in the OEM crash test.
 

BPD53

Not Always Friendly
#3
I am a motor vehicle collision investigator as part of my job. I see lots of injuries resulting from items inside of the occupant compartment.

I saw a floor jack almost take a leg off one time. I saw a lady almost get beat to death because she was carrying a case of coffee mugs in the passenger seat and flipped her vehicle. There are many many more examples but who cares.

If you saw what I see everyday you wouldn't put anything in your cab unless it is soft. Lots and lots of injuries from in cab junk.
 
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southpier

Expedition Leader
#4
I am often amazed at service trucks - plumbers, electricians, hvac technicians - with their dashboards packed full of everything from potato chips to water pump pliers. of course they only do that because it's the only room left.
 

doug720

Expedition Leader
#5
Forget the dash in service trucks, especially vans...Look at whats located in the back that will come flying forward in a sudden stop type crash!

"I'd get out, but I've been impaled by a stick of 1/2" copper pipe...and I'm nailed between the seat and dash!"
 

Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
#6
Have no idea what a RAM mount is.. don't really care (certainly not enough to google it)..
I have sent a lot of time off road on difficult trails and seen more than my share of rolls and flops; securing the load. therefore has a high priority in my book.
I also remember when seat belts became more than a rarity and when people were often killed by non-collapsible steering columns so maintaining a modicum of safety during the mod planning stages is also a priority...
...since becoming increasingly antique/acquiring common sense I really see no need for any additions to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) design that would be risky to anyone wearing seat belts (everyone in my vehicle); however buttons knobs and floor shifters etc. are not a significant risk, IMO...
Having had experience with relatively obnoxious 5 point seat belt harness; I also see little reason to go overboard on "safety" items ...If its inconvenient to use it probably won't be... I, personally, don't want to live in a rubber padded world and find most paranoid/lawyer inspired things extremely wasteful (typically a PITA (Pain In The donkey) that lowers my quality of life). (IF YOU want it; get it installed but don't force it on the rest of us!)... that said I have added roll cages in some primarily off road vehicles; my DD (Daily Driver) really doesn't need it as my chances of roll over, on road, are insignificant.
BTW (By The Way); Beware of anyone selling an idea or proposition "for your own good"; there is normally another agenda/profit involved.

Enjoy!
 
#7
Having previous experience as an installer for emergency vehicles, I make damn sure that anything I install is NOT going anywhere. It's bolted down/secured.

I've seen accidents due to unsecured equipment, and a lot of states have laws on the books disallowing unsecured items on the shelf of a vehicle. It only takes ONE time to see a visible dent in the back of the head in a non-responsive patient, in an otherwise 'fender bender' accident, to make you realize that speakers need to be secured, and not just placed there.

As far as add'l equipment causing injury? It can. It's a risk. You mitigate those risks by installing equipment properly and out of the way of airbag deployment zones, flail areas (areas that would cause injury when impacted due to proximity to moving appendages in an accident),etc. One of the most common injuries in accidents involving police cars is a broken wrist/fingers, due to impacting the spotlight handle that's right by the left hand... These things happen, but you do what you can to mitigate risk.

Know where you can SECURELY bolt things down so they don't become projectiles, don't mount things in areas that could/would injure you in an impact, and don't mount things in front of airbags or airbag deployment zones..
 
#8
When I was in EMS saw a guy had that been pummeled by a 5lb dumb bell he was carrying in his truck, after he rolled his vehicle multiple times. Working in the emergency department, saw a child with a significant head injury sustained by a mounted DVD player that became a projectile.
 

calicamper

Expedition Leader
#9
The answer is yes. Im pretty amazed at the crap I see people sticking to their windshield in most cases illegally given it also blocks their field of vision out the window. Dash mounted nothing like an explosive charge lodging a tablet bracket in your face I suppose. Hell one of the most common injuries today are facial lacerations and broken bones from the drivers arms being blown into their face by the airbag.

Auto makers removed the pull style Ebrake handle between the seats. Seems accident victims were being impaled on them under the rib cage during bad wrecks the handle flips up and bingo its under your rib cage.

A kid I know suffered major head trauma from a water bottle that came off the rear window deck of his sedan after he was hit head on by a driver driving in a Suicide lane. He was stopped for a left turn other car was doing 40. The water bottle drilled him in the head from behind.
 
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#10
I am a motor vehicle collision investigator as part of my job. I see lots of injuries resulting from items inside of the occupant compartment.

I saw a floor jack almost take a leg off one time. I saw a lady almost get beat to death because she was carrying a case of coffee mugs in the passenger seat and flipped her vehicle. There are many many more examples but who cares.

If if you saw what I see everyday you wouldn't put anything in your cab unless it is soft. Lots and lots of injuries from in cab junk.
It took me a number of years to properly communicate this to my spouse - I've been clobbered by stuff in accidents before.

They always wanted to stick one more unsecured item in the cab until I put my foot down about it. The flip side of that is finding workable solutions on where to secure things.
 
#11
I remember wheeling in my buddies '65 power wagon. We went straight up a short hill, then over and down the far side. Three of us in the cab, all had knots on our heads from banging the steel cab, and everything under the seat, was now on top of the dashboard!

Memories !!!
 
#13
All these first-hand accounts are helping the realization sink in and I'm going to be far more careful about items in the cab, even small ones, loose and mounted. You guys seem to agree with the premise, but am I wrong that this safety consideration doesn't seemed to be discussed as much as roof loads or the storage of larger gear in the trunk? I suppose it makes sense because roof racks and drawer systems are a little more fun to geek out over than cup-holders...

Rayra, is that a safety cat? Ha, maybe a mascot will help spread the message!
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
#14
Nope, just illustrating that the danger is all the distractions, rather than the array of hard objects. The cat is a paused DVD playback (5th Element). 3 radios, tablet, smartphone, dash cam. I'm more likely to die from an inadvertent head-on collision than by coming into contact with one the corners of all those objects.

I wouldn't be too worried about all the objects. Accident rates are very low.


/I'm more worried about smelling marijuana every time I get on the road around here, and that was long before it went legal here on the 1st. I wonder what the change in accident rate was in CO, if any?