Volpe Center Highlights
Promote public health and safety by working toward the elimination of transportation-related deaths, injuries, and property damage.
Effects of Air Bag Inflation (NHTSA)
The Volpe Center's Vehicle Crashworthiness Division supports NHTSA's Office of Crashworthiness Research in several areas including occupant protection systems and occupant response. Accident investigation teams have recently attributed a number of air bag related deaths to unbelted or out-of-position drivers of small stature and to children. This prompted two computer studies by Mr. Larry Simeone and a third study by Mr. John Guglielmi that simulated a variety of motor vehicle occupants during a crash. One study analyzed the effect of reducing the rate at which air bags inflate during a frontal collision. The study showed that for an average male a reduction in some air bag inflator flow rates significantly reduced the force of the air bag on the occupant without compromising the overall safety performance of the restraint system. A second study looked at the injury response of an unbelted six year old child during a 35 mile per hour crash. The results of this study indicated a serious injury risk for unbelted child occupants who are seated out of normal position and in close proximity to a deploying air bag. The third study simulated the effects of different air bag flow rates on a normally seated small female driver during a frontal collision. This study showed that a reduction of the inflator flow rate resulted in increased air bag forces in the head area, but chest forces were reduced. The results of these studies have been delivered to NHTSA; additional studies will be required to establish optimal air bag inflator flow rates.
Reports on Hazardous Materials Transport (RSPA)
The Volpe Center is providing analytical and technical support to RSPA's Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (OHMS) on the safe transport of hazardous materials. Copies of a final Center report entitled "Truck Transport of Hazardous Chemicals: Dodecene-1" was recently delivered to OHMS. The report, which is the first in a series being produced by the Volpe Center's Environmental Engineering Division for OHMS on the flows of specific hazardous materials by highway, will be published as an NTIS report. The series of reports will better enable OHMS, states, and other interested parties in government and industry to understand the geographical distribution of flows of hazardous materials on U.S. highways. The second report in the series was also recently completed, entitled "Truck Transport of Hazardous Chemicals: 1-Butanol," and sent to OHMS.
Rail Passenger Car Safety Standards (FRA)
As part of the Rail Equipment Safety Program, the Volpe Center's Structures and Dynamics Division supports the FRA's Office of Research and Development with efforts to develop engineering data required for establishing safety standards for passenger equipment. Dr. Herbert Weinstock and Mr. David Tyrell recently participated in FRA's Passenger Equipment Safety Standards Working Group meeting in Washington, D.C. Mr. Tyrell presented a draft seat specification, based on a recent series of tests of existing intercity train coach seats, for consideration by the group.
Alcohol Countermeasures Support (NHTSA)
As part of its support to NHTSA's Office of Alcohol and State Programs, the Volpe Center is evaluating techniques for measuring alcohol on the breath and in blood of suspected drunk drivers. This work includes evaluation of breath-alcohol testing procedures and practices of state law-enforcement agencies. Dr. Arthur Flores, of the Safety and Environmental Technology Division, recently participated in the Ninth Annual Conference of the International Association for Chemical Testing, held in Lisle, IL. Dr. Flores served as a member of the discussion panel "Procedures for Approval of Breath Testing Instrumentation," and thereby obtained valuable up-to-date information on equipment needs of state law-enforcement officials. Technical sessions of the Conference covered a broad range of topics of concern to managers of alcohol countermeasures programs.
Audible Warning Systems at Grade Crossings (FRA)
The Volpe Center is supporting FRA efforts to improve safety at railroad highway grade crossings through the Highway Rail Grade Crossing Safety Research program. This program assesses a variety of human performance considerations and operational issues associated with locomotive conspicuity, passive warning signs, freight car reflectorization, mobile barriers, and audible warning systems. Recently, Dr. Jordan Multer, of the Center's Operator Performance and Safety Analysis Division, presented a paper at the 1996 State/FHWA Region 5 and 7 Railroad conference, in Omaha, NE. His paper provided an overview of research evaluating the effectiveness of an experimental wayside mounted horn. The Volpe Center is currently evaluating the effectiveness of an experimental wayside mounted horn compared to a train mounted horn at two railroad highway grade crossings in Gering, NE. As part of the field study, the Center is measuring the noise produced by the two auditory warnings, assessing the impact on the community, and evaluating driver behavior at the grade crossing.
Flight Crew Performance in GPS Operations (FAA)
Dr. Steve Huntley, of the Center's Operator Performance and Safety Analysis Division, recently participated in the Avionics Systems Standardization Workshop, conducted by the FAA's Avionics Systems Branch in Arlington, VA. At the workshop, which was attended by over 90 certification specialists, Dr. Huntley discussed the use and formatting of the operations and human factors certification checklist that the Volpe center developed for evaluating Global Positioning System (GPS) stand-alone receivers. The discussion produced requirements for a new checklist to help avionics certification specialists in the evaluation of GPS receivers designed for use with the Wide Area Augmentation System. The design of the pilot/avionics interface is the key to safety and efficiency of system operation by flight crews. Dr. Huntley has been asked to develop the guidelines for evaluating the design of this interface.
Release of Latest Version of Flight Standards Automation Software (FAA)
Version 7.01 of the Volpe Center-developed Flight Standards Automation System (FSAS) was recently released to all FAA Flight Standards offices. FSAS is an automated information system to assist FAA inspectors in reporting and tracking various surveillance activities and in maintaining vital information on air carriers, agencies, and other aviation related organizations and personnel. As such, it is an important key to FAA's effectiveness in helping to assure safety to the traveling public. The Version 7.01 upgrade adds several new fields to the Vital Information Subsystem (VIS) Air Operator data tracked by FSAS. The new fields will be used to assign specific required surveillance activities generated by the Regional Automated Mainframe Planning System. Among the other changes included in Version 7.01 are additional field checks on surveillance activity start dates entered into the Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS) and a new report to allow end users to list PTRS field requirements for selected activity numbers.