1966 school bus crash test
April 5, 1966: In an effort to obtain scientific data on crash injuries, the UCLA Institute of Transportation and Traffic and the National Safety Council set up this head-on collision between two school buses. The one at right was built in 1944, while the one at left is a 1965 model.
This three-photo combo by Joe Kennedy appeared in the April 6, 1966, Los Angeles Times. The accompanying story by Auto Editor Bob Thomas reported that the two buses were “crashed head on at 30 m.p.h. Tuesday at Terminal Island Naval Station.”
According to UCLA research engineer Derwyn M. Severy, 13 of the 36 crash dummies aboard the 1965 bus received damage that would have been critical or fatal injuries had they been human beings.
Only a restrained driver dummy was aboard the 1944 bus. Sand bags were used to represent unbelted schoolchildren. Severy reported that everyone on the old bus was “wiped out.”
Better school bus seats was the major recommendation from the 1966 test. Science writer George Getze reported in the Jan. 11, 1967, Los Angeles Times:
School buses are dangerous to ride in, three UCLA research engineers said Tuesday. They reported present school bus design scores low in passenger safety because of grossly inadequate seats, poor attachment of the body to the frame, improper heights of bumpers and lack of emergency exits.
These and other design faults were described by D. M. Severy, H. M. Brink and J. D. Baird of the UCLA Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering. Their study was prepared for the current Detroit meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Low seat backs with poor padding are the worst safety hazard in most school buses, the three investigators reported. …
The wearing of safety belts across the lap actually increases the danger from low back seats, the three UCLA researchers found. They said the belts impart greater force to a jackknife movement against and over the top of the seat.
As a result of their investigation, the UCLA engineers recommended that seat belts or other restraints not be installed in school buses until the present type of backs, which range between 18 and 20 inches in height, are replaced by 28-inch or higher backs with padded headrests. The seats the three engineers recommend are like those on cross-country buses and airlines.
Severy, head of the bus project, recommended major improvements in the way the bodies and chassis of school buses are attached.
In one of the UCLA experiments, he said, two 60-passenger buses, a 1965 GMC and a 1944 Mack, each traveling at 30 m.p.h., were crashed head on. The body of the ’65 vehicle overrode its own chassis by 17 inches, showing that most of the collision force was transferred directly to the passenger compartment instead of being absorbed by the frame. The Mack’s engine was driven into the body.
The UCLA findings show that the body should be attached to the frame with more shear bolts at frequent intervals from front to rear along both frame members, Severy said.
The collision he described took place in April at an airstrip at Terminal Island and was followed up by two other experimental crashes: that of a passenger car into a bus’s rear at 60 m.p.h., and another fast-moving passenger car into a bus on the right side. …
About 15 million school children go to and from school in buses in the United States. In 1964, according to figures compiled by the National Safety Council, 3,700 of them were injured in bus accidents, an increase of 75% over 1960. The number of children regularly riding school buses increased only 40% during that period.
In the 1970s, many safety improvements – including to seats – were required in new school buses.
The bottom photo accompanied Getze’s story in the Jan. 11, 1967, Los Angeles Times.
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