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The Volvo Traffic Accident Research Team

Shortly after a Volvo engineer invented the three-point seatbelt, which is now an industry standard, Volvo conducted a comprehensive survey aimed at reducing injuries in auto accidents. This 1966 survey included every accident involving a Volvo in Sweden over a one-year period. The result suggested that the belt reduced injuries by 50 percent.

Volvo realized that by knowing what happens to the car, and its occupants, in an accident can be invaluable to the product development of safer cars. So in 1970, the Traffic Accident Research Team was formed. The unit has been working continuously ever since.

"The need for real know-how has not declined over the years, however we have refined our working procedures," says Hans Norin, traffic accident researcher at Volvo Cars.

Volvo accident researchers work with both depth and breadth. In-depth studies of individual accidents provide a wide range of insights:

  • the complex mechanisms in different accident types /
  • how the safeguard systems in the cars function
  • and, how the people sitting in the cars receive injuries

Concurrently, a wide-range of statistics is gathered to establish relative predictability in the type of accident. With this knowledge, Volvo Cars can determine valuable priorities in new car development.

To attain accurate accounts of what may have happened in an accident, detailed studies are required. This all begins at the scene of the accident. When a serious accident, involving a Volvo, occurs within a 60-mile radius of Volvo's home city of Gothenburg, Sweden, the Traffic Accident Research Team is alerted via the official emergency switchboard -- day or night.

At least one person from Volvo Cars goes to the scene. Where possible, the police postpone moving the vehicles until Volvo technicians arrive. Once on the scene they conduct a general study, which is documented with measurements and photographs. The police, the witnesses and, if possible, those directly involved are all interviewed.

Afterwards, the wreckage is transported to a workshop or to Volvo Cars' Safety Center for further detailed analysis. At the same time, valuable information about the occupants and their injuries is also gathered. The Safety Center staff, the design department, and medical experts then analyze the data.

Through various collection procedures, a body of statistical accident data is established to provide a correlation between the type of injury and the type of accident.

The basic rule for the Traffic Accident Research Team is that the more information that can be obtained, the better. The purpose of their work is to learn more about accidents and their consequences, knowledge that can subsequently be applied in product development.

"Over our years of working on safety we have become good at communicating -- and getting people to listen to -- the know-how that the Traffic Accident Research Team generates," says Hans Norin. "Many of the safety systems in Volvo cars have been developed on the basis of knowledge obtained from real accident studies by the Volvo Traffic Accident Research Team."

Courtesy Volvo Cars of North America, LLC