• Impact speed taken from Event Data Recorders for high accuracy.
• Risk curves produced for risk of serious injury vs impact speed by impact type.
• Head on impacts have the lowest impact speed for a given level of risk.
• Measures to reduce impact speeds are important to reduce serious injuries.
• Head on crashes need to be prevented due to their high risk at low speeds.
The current guiding philosophies in road safety have stated aims of zero deaths and serious injuries. Speed has previously been highlighted as a key factor in the outcome of a crash but the literature to date has yet to provide a robust relationship between impact speed and the risk of serious injury for crashes other than pedestrian crashes. This study aimed to determine the relationship between impact speed and the risk of serious injury in light vehicle crashes.
Crash data from the US based National Automotive Sampling System – Crashworthiness Data System collected from 2011 to 2015 were used in the analysis when there was a known impact speed from an event data recorder (EDR) and a known injury outcome. The analysis was conducted at the vehicle level. Data from a total of 1274 vehicles were used in logistic regressions, with the presence or absence of a serious injury as the binary dependent variable, and impact speed as the continuous independent variable. Individual risk curves were produced for front, side, rear and head on impacts. Impact speed was found to have a highly significant positive relationship to risk of serious injury for all impact types examined. The risk of serious injury reaches 1% at 28 km/h for head on impacts, 51 km/h for side impacts, 64 km/h for front impacts, and 67 km/h for rear impacts. The results emphasise the importance of measures that reduce impacts speeds, be they road designs, vehicle technologies or enforced speed limit reductions, and highlight the need to prevent head on impacts.