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Safety in Accidents: Hugh DeHaven and the Development of Crash Injury Studies

From: Technology and Culture
Volume 54, Number 1, January 2013
pp. 40-61 | 10.1353/tech.2013.0029



In 1917, a young Hugh De Haven suffered life-threatening injuries in his quest to become a World War I flyboy. While recovering in the hospital, he became convinced that crashworthy engineering, intended to protect survivors of accidents, would have prevented his most serious injuries. This insight propelled him into his life's work: the epidemiology of accidents. De Haven founded two influential organizations, the Crash Injury Research project in 1942, studying airplane accidents, and the Automotive Crash Injury Research project in 1953, doing the same for automobiles. Believing that statistical analysis would enable engineers—aeronautical and automotive engineers in particular—to eliminate hazardous design features, he lobbied aircraft and automobile manufacturers to improve their products' safety by applying data compiled from real-world events. Through his work, De Haven was instrumental in developing the study of crash injuries into a legitimate science.