Project: Car Fatals: Trends, Rear Seat Users, and Fires

Reference: S070Q/VF

Last update: 08/09/2003 13:59:08


The department had a target of reducing the number of casualties by 1/3 by the year 2000 and to reduce it further in future years. This project was aimed at understanding better the causes of fatal accidents, the injury mechanisms involved, the part that fire may have played in the cause of death, occupant entrapment, restraint system involvement and rear seat occupant deaths. This was to assist the Department to support new, post year 2000 casualty targets and enable the Department to support new research proposals and European negotiations aimed at mitigating fatal accidents.


Six separate aspects of fatal car accidents were selected for analysis - the accident experiences of pedestrians, pedal cyclists, ejected occupants and rear seat occupants, the role of entrapment in rear occupant fatalities, and car fires. TRL in liaison with the Home Office developed a method by which the fatals database, Stats19 and the Home Office Fires database could be linked. This enabled detailed, meaningful and cost effective analysis to be conducted by TRL.


TRL Limited
Crowthorne House, Nine Mile Ride, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG40 3GA
+44 (0)1344 773131

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £234,000.00

Actual start date: 30 June 1996

Actual completion date: 30 April 2000


PR/SE/533/99. An Analysis of Fatal Accidents Involving Pedestrians, Pedal Cyclists, Ejected Occupants and Rear Seat Occupants
Author: TRL Ltd
Publication date: 30/06/1999
Source: Contact:

PR/SE/434/98. Analysis of Car Rear Occupant Injury and Examination of the Fatals Databases Including Entrapment and Casualties Outside of the Vehicle - Interim Progress Report
Author: TRL Ltd
Publication date: 01/04/1998
Source: Contact:

PR/SE/469/98. Crash Collision Car Fires
Author: TRL Ltd
Publication date: 01/05/1998
Source: Contact:

TCR 54/99. Investigation of Crash Collision Car Fires: Fire Tests on Materials Used on Cars
Author: BRE
Publication date: 01/04/1999
Source: Contact:

Summary of results

  1. Conclusions of the project have shown that:

    * for cyclists, helmet use could result in a significant reduction in fatalities (as much as 43%) and most of the accidents occur in daylight, in fine weather and on dry roads;
    * the risk of ejection for belted occupants in crashes where at least one person was ejected was 15%, compared to 71% for unbelted occupants. Belt use is thus the single most effective method of preventing ejection. For unbelted occupants, the risk of ejection was much higher in the front seats (83%) than the rear (63%); and
    * restraint effectiveness for centre rear seat occupants was about 26% as compared to 42% for rear seats generally. The report suggests that this could be improved by fitting lap/diagonal belts in this position. Rear occupant belt use rates in vehicles with rear seat belts fitted has risen from 49% in 1990 to 69% in 1995.

    It also studied fatal accidents involving fires in cars to determine if there are ways of reducing the number of lives lost. Factors include patterns of accidents, fuel leakage, the type of trim in the vehicle and the role played by smoke and poisonous fumes. It also looked at the ability of victims to get out of vehicles, the potential for different designs to protect fuel systems and the possible benefits of fitting fire extinguishers.