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Slightly over 37 million motor vehicles 3 to 9 years old were on our highways at the end of 1960, compared with 29.7 million 5 years earlier. Today's automobiles are soundly engineered and sturdily built, but as with any machine, wear and constant use inevitably take their toll in safety and efficiency.
The mechanically unsafe car has always been a contributing cause to highway accidents and it will grow in that role as the vehicle registration increases through the years ahead. Among the 18 States and the District of Columbia which already have periodic motor vehicle inspection, studies have revealed as high as 55 percent of the vehicles inspected are unsafe because one or more parts affecting safe driving conditions required immediate attention.
The U. S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Public Roads suggests that vehicle condition plays a more important part in accidents than has been believed. We know that in the reporting procedure of traffic accidents, unsafe vehicle conditions have not been given proper recognition as a contributory cause of traffic accidents. There are a number of reasons for this, including
1. Vehicles are often damaged beyond the point of determining their true condition at the time of accident;
2. Accident investigations tend to concentrate on the driver and driving conditions;
3. Many investigators are not trained to recognize evidence of unsafe vehicle conditions;
4. Accident reporting procedures in different States are not uniform;
5. Drivers are reluctant to admit maintenance neglect, fearing assertion of contributory negligence in civil law suits;
6. Vehicles are often defective because of the lack of proper inspection. The expansion and improvement of our highway system is increasing; the number of motor vehicles on the highways is increasing, more and more people are driving more frequently and longer distances. The problem of highway safety is growing and destined to grow for years.
There will be additional burdens placed on the many fine organizations in the field of safety. The time, effort, and moneys they will need to continue and to expand their efforts will become more and more burdensome.
For that reason the establishment of a central clearing house under Federal Government auspices, to coordinate all the manifold aspects of probing the causes of highway accidents and their prevention, could be beneficial.
It would be easy to say to this committee that any action taken by an group, be it private, municipal, State, or Federal Government, designed to prevent traffic accidents and thereby save lives, prevent injuries to persons and to property would thus save the taxpayer a staggering burden, and so is to be commended. However, we urge strongly upon this committee that the members consider the possibility of duplication by the proposed National Accident Prevention Center of activities already being performed and responsibilities assumed by such organizations. We heartily oppose unnecessary duplication, and waste of taxpayers' moneys.
In the field of proper periodic oto vehicle inspection legislation the research studies to implement it, there is much room for help with little danger on overlap of responsibility or activity.
Many Federal agencies and offices have already become aware of the problem of inspection and have endorsed the principles of periodic motor vehicle inspection. Among them are Secretary A. Ribicoff (HEW), and President Kennedy's own Safety Committee, headed by William Randolph Hearst, Jr.
Knowing that this committee's purpose is to construct legislation in the public interest, and knowing that since 1900 we have killed well over 1,300,000 people on our highways, injured countless millions, and that unless something is done about it 700,000 of our friends, neighbors, relatives and business associates, will meet death on the highways by 1975, we respectfully urge the committee to consider the effect of any legislation in the safety field on the needs of the nation for periodic motor vehicle inspection. It is a herculean task and we do not wish to demean any of the fine private, and State, or Federal organizations which have worked long and hard in this field. We do know that the goal of effective periodic motor vehicle inspection is yet a long way off and that it is, strictly speaking, vital for many Americans living and as yet unborn.
STATEMENT BY COL. GAYLORD B. KIDWELL, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED) Mr. Chairman and committee members, may I express my appreciation for your gracious invitation to appear before your committee. Perhaps a brief summary of my experience over a 9-year pursuit to improve safety techniques to prevent accidental entrapment and suffocation of children in idle refrigerators and freezers might be helpful in your deliberations of H.R. 133. Incidentally, my services have been rendered on a purely voluntary basis in the capacity of a private citizen and without benefit of remuneration of any kind.
I take this time of the committee to point up a particular problem in safety that, had a center, such as is proposed by H.R. 133, been in existence at the time legislation was enacted regarding refrigerators, many years of time required to obtain the results desired by the legislation would have been saved, to say nothing of the effort and cost incident thereto.
This deduction is not intended as a reflection on any agency of the Government responsible for safety. In the years I have devoted to the problem, every agency I have contacted has been most cooperative. However, the scope of their activity in the particular field in which I was deeply interested (and I am sure the Congress was, or this legislation would not have been enacted into law) was limited. The establishment of a centralized depository or clearinghouse for information and data as proposed by H.R. 133 I believe is not only vital but will serve a useful and beneficial purpose.
Shortly after my retirement from active military service in 1953, the problem of these tragic childhood accidents was high in the public mind. Several remedial legislative bills had been introduced in both Houses of the Congress, and at least two hearings had been held with another one in prospect. Shortly thereafter Public Law 930, which was sponsored by the Honorable Kenneth A. Roberts, of Alabama, was enacted in 1956. This law, as you know, required that subsequently all new household refrigerators shipped in interstate commerce had to be equipped with doors that could easily be opened from the inside.
Regardless of the safety benefits that were hoped for through this new law there still remained a national inventory of some 60 to 80 million old units with conventional locking devices to be coped with. It is to this aspect of the problem that I have mainly directed my efforts.
Hope for the protection of children from accidental entrapment in these boxes has rested mainly in safety educational programing and the enactment of State and local laws and controls. Educational programing consisted of an intense concentration on "abandoned or discarded” refrigerators and freezers. This emphasis may very well have unintentionally invited neglect of precaution being taken with boxes temporarily out of service, but intended for an early return to use. Examples of such temporary idleness are those in vacant apartments and houses, on back porches of homes and summer cottages, or merely stored in a basement or garage awaiting transfer to another location. There are numerous newspaper accounts of children being killed under these circumstances.
The safety precautions advocated, until recently, seemed hardly suitable on boxes intended to be used again. They were cumbersome to apply and somewhat damaging to the units themselves. These actions included the complete removal of doors, hasps, gaskets, and even boring holes in the cabinet with an electric drill. True, any of these actions would be effective on a box that had been discarded and was headed for the junkyard. However, none were practicable for application by an owner or housewife who wished to render a temporarily idle box harmless.
The direction of search for improvement seemed to lie in devising a number of simple things that a homeowner or housewife might do that required a minimum of mechanical skill. In pursuing this search it was my pleasure to consult with many Federal and State officials who had interest and responsibility in this and other safety matters. On two occasions consideration was given to safety devices conceived by me and offered for the free use of the Government and the general public. In both instances the matter of testing and evaluating these devices presented the same problem. The department that had the authority to consider a device and to advocate its use, lacked the capability of independent research and testing.
In the early months of this effort the results of the behavior tests with live children under simulated refrigerator entrapment, conducted by the National Bureau of Standards, were made public. Surprisingly, this report showed that many smaller children made no effort to escape their capture, but merely sat quietly as if awaiting assistance. My little grandaughter, then 3 years old, was one of these children selected for use in the test.
The unexpected and disappointing degree of safety benefits inherent in pushopen doors presented another problem. It became apparent that precautions must be taken with regard to new design refrigerators, as well as for the old ones. Such responsibility had not been anticipated by many manufacturers. Some national advertising and pronouncements by educators and editors, indicated assumption that push-open doors were foolproof and entirely safe. Relief from this dilemma, with all its ramifications, did not appear to come within the scope of any single Federal agency. Therefore, with the generous assistance of my Congressman, the Honorable Joel T. Broyhill, of Virginia, facts were presented to separate departments and agencies having means to institute corrective actions, which in due course were forthcoming.
In the summer of 1961, I learned that the Federal Safety Council in the Department of Labor had a function to develop and advocate safety guides for use throughout the Government. I approached the Chairman of this Council offering a "toggle and plate” device to free use by the Government and general public, as one means of preventing child entrapment. In this contact I was introduced and sponsored by Congressman Roberts, the esteemed chairman of this committee. As we proceeded with conferences with the Standards Committee of the Council I was invited to continue my collaboration and assist in writing a new safety guide. The end product is the recent publication of the Council's "Safefy Guide for the Prevention of Refrigerator Entrapment." which follows this statement.
This guide recognizes the entrapment hazard to exist in all idle boxes conceivably exposed to entrance by playing children. It suggests several novel and simple safety techniques that might be applied, among which is the toggle and plate device. Since publication this guide has been sent to all State health officers by the U.S. Public Health Service, and the substance contained therein was promptly adopted and advocated by the National Safety Council, a nongovernmental organization.
It may appear somewhat astounding that safety assistance of rather simple characteristics, as were finally realized in the publication and acceptance of the Council's "Safety Guide,” took so many years to accomplish. I venture to suggest that much delay in achieving this goal came about through the absence of centralized safety management, and a lack of independent research and testing capabilities within the framework safety organizations. Elimination of delays and excessive time consumption in realizing the prevention of accidents in other areas, may very well be realized by the establishment of a National Accident Prevention Center. Thank you. (The "Safety Guide” referred to in the above statement follows:)
SAFETY GUIDE FOR PREVENTION OF REFRIGERATOR ENTRAPMENT 1. The Standards Division of the Federal Safety Council has recently completed a comprehensive study and review of the safety problem of accidental entrapment and suffocation of children in refrigerators and deep freezers which are not in use.
2. In the pursuit of this study, the Standards Division gave consideration to the implications in Public Law 930, 84th Congress, approved August 2, 1956, to the implications in various State laws dealing with the specific problem, to safety measures advocated in national safety programing, and to measures currently in effect in some executive departments.
3. Other related matters considered in the study were:
(a) The results of the child behavior studies of 1957 and 1961. These studies, "Behavior of Young Children Under Conditions Simulating Entrapment in Refrigerators,”_ April 16, 1957, and "The Effects of a Luminous Door Marker on Escape From Refrigerators,” August 25, 1961, were prepared by the Children's Bureau of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the National Bureau of Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce, with the cooperation of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
(6) A press release and coverage by Dr. Leroy E. Burney, Surgeon General, Public Health Service, May 8, 1959, warning that precautionary actions should be taken with all refrigerators, including the newer types equipped with safety door releases.
(c) The position taken by the Federal Trade Commission relative to advertising claims of safety benefits in the new safety doors.
4. As a product of this study and review, the Council finds:
(a) That positive precautionary measures should be taken with all units temporarily or permanently taken out of service in their refrigerative function. This is reviewed as particularly significant to agencies having custodial responsibility for vacant housing.
(6) That in view of the limited safety benefits disclosed in the child behavior tests, positive precautionary measures should be taken with the new push-open door type refrigerators.
5. The Council therefore recommends that one of the following safety measures be taken where a unit is to be taken out of service:
(a) Completely remove doors: This precaution is seen as positive in eliminating the hazard of accidental entrapment and suffocation, and should be taken in all cases where the unit is discarded and not to be used again in its refrigerative function.
(6) Secure with metal strapping: This should be applied with hand-operated baling equipment to insure a tamperproof seal. Use of "wire or stout rope" is not recommended.
(c) Toggle and plate device: This device has been demonstrated to be adequate protection on units; the locking design will allow easy installation. Its use has the advantage of simplicity and will allow the door to swing freely without locking accidentally. It also permits inspection of the interior. This is viewed as helpful in cases of vacant housing which is subject to inspection from time to time by prospective tenants, or maintenance personnel. (Attached is a diagram demonstrating the installation and use of the toggle and plate device.)
(d) Lock with padlock: In rare cases where handles are so constructed as to receive a padlock, this action would be adequate.
(e) Metal or wood blocking: In those cases where the removal of latch, magnetic plate, or other locking feature, will leave screw holes exposed, the following action is recommended: attach a metal or wooden block utilizing the exposed screw holes. The block to be of sufficient thickness so as to prevent the door gasket from coming in contact with the face of the cabinet and closing off air to the inside. In some instances, longer screws may have to be employed or the block countersunk to accommodate the added thickness.
6. The Council feels that these are the only foolproof precautionary measures that are available to date.
If anyone has an idea, or a device, that will provide for complete child protection against refrigerator entrapment, submit it to the Federal Safety Council, U.S. Department of Labor, Washington, D.C.
7. Private citizens, manufacturers, dealers, Federal and State agencies owning refrigerators and deep freezers should check State, municipal, and local laws and regulations concerning the abandonment, storage, or "junking” of refrigerator units.