From the Archives: 1966 school bus crash test helps prompt safety measures

April 5, 1966: Two buses are crashed together on Terminal Island by UCLA traffic safety experts. Thi
April 5, 1966: Two school buses collide in a crash test by UCLA traffic safety experts on Terminal Island.
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times)

In an effort to obtain scientific data on crash injuries, the UCLA Institute of Transportation and Traffic and the National Safety Council set up a head-on collision between two school buses. The bus on the right was built in 1944, while the one on the left is a 1965 model.

This three-photo sequence by Joe Kennedy appeared in the April 6, 1966, Los Angeles Times. The accompanying article by Auto Editor Bob Thomas reported that the two buses were “crashed head on at 30 mph 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.”

The findings by the UCLA Institute of Transportation and Traffic engineers raised the bar for bus construction and bus seat installation. The findings were presented to Congress in a 165-page reported titled “School Bus Passenger Protection.”

In the 1970s, many safety improvements – including to seats – were required in new school buses.

This post was originally published on June 14, 2016.

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