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Colonel Stapp has had a distinguished career in the field of accident prevention research and is a man who has put together most of the knowledge that we have in the field of space and what the human body could endure. He has conducted various experiments with the rocket-sled deceleration and has done a tremendous job in this field, and I always feel it is a great privilege to have him appear here as a witness.
Colonel, we are delighted to have you.
STATEMENT OF COL. JOHN P. STAPP, USAF (MC), DEPUTY CHIEF
SCIENTIST, AEROSPACE MEDICAL DIVISION, AIR FORCE SYSTEMS COMMAND, BROOKS AIR FORCE BASE, SAN ANTONIO, TEX.
Colonel STAPP. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. May I make a statement, sir, to begin with?
Mr. ROBERTS. Yes, sir.
Colonel STAPP. A letter dated April 8, 1963, expresses the position of the Department of Defense with regard to H.R. 133. I will quote from this letter, the third paragraph:
The Department of Defense appreciates the general objective of establishing national facilities to conduct and promote the coordination of accident research, but defers to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare as to the merits of establishing such facilities in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and as to the specific provisions of H.R. 133.
Therefore, speaking on behalf of the Defense Department I wish to commend and concur in the statement presented by the Hon. Wilbur J. Cohen on behalf of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Hereafter I will be speaking as a private citizen and scientist.
In the first place, we are aware of this accident death problem because it is no longer overshadowed by epidemic disease deaths which have come under control through the use of vaccines, chemotherapy, and antibiotics, derived from research programs sponsored in many cases by the U.S. Public Health Service. We have every reason to hope that the same research methods practiced by the same organization will be no less effective in dealing with the accident prevention problem.
Our other reason for being acutely aware of accident deaths is that they rise with the increasing number of automobiles. A very simple solution would be to do away with privately owned automobiles. hazardous sports, and dangerous occupations, but I do not think that this democracy would go for such an approach.
The alternative is to apply the tried methods of U.S. Public Health Service to accident prevention. Forty thousand lives lost last year, half of them people less than 40 years of age, is a high price for neglecting this problem.
This bill, H.R. 133, is an amendment of title III of the existing Public Health Service Act, laid out in the traditional pattern of other such bills for dealing with preventive medical problems.
This bill recognizes the responsibility of the U.S. Public Health Service in accident prevention and empowers the Public Health Service to take appropriate action just as it has successfully in the past with many other health problems. This approach and this Government responsibility is in accordance with precedents of re
sponsibility for loss of life at sea, assigned to the Coast Guard, and with prevention of loss of life in aerial accidents, which has been an area of responsibility of FAA and CAB. Other governments have dealt with the responsibility for accident prevention quite successfully.
Sweden, with a population of 7 million, has 1 million automobiles, and fewer than 10,000 accidents a year, which is about a 1-percent accident rate for the number of automobiles, and a very low injury and loss of life rate even on a relative basis compared with ours.
We can look within our own armed services. In the U.S. Air Force the Office of the Inspector General is responsible for flight safety, ground safety, and missile safety.
In the ground safety activity by applying the approach of collecting and disseminating information and advice, carrying on safety campaigns and using what research information was available, they have succeeded in the last 7 years through 1961 in cutting the loss of life from automobile accidents down from more than 700 to less than 400 per year. This is an example of the effectiveness of accident prevention in pilot plant experiment compared to the size of the total population of the United States.
Some of the investment in accident prevention and safety research can be charged to what we have already saved with successful epidemiology research. To present the problem of death and injury by mechanical force graphically let me cite the following facts:
A 170-pound astronaut on an Atlas missile can go from the launching pad to a velocity of 17,500 miles an hour in 5 minutes noth seconds, or to a velocity of 24,500 feet per second in 301.4 seconds. If you take half his weight times the velocity squared you get the kinetic energy. In this journey he has acquired 51 billion footpounds of kinetic energy with no injury or harm.
Three of our astronauts have made the round trip with no ill effects. If you were to take the same individual with no protective devices, bare-headed, and drop him 10 feet flat on his back on a concrete floor, he will attain a velocity of 6% miles an hour and his body will be stopped in about one-hundredth of a second.
This amounts to only 51,000 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, but his skull can be fractured in two one-thousandths of a second on impact and his chances of surviving such a fall are in doubt. In this fall he has experienced 100,000 times less kinetic energy than he did in as-cending into orbit, and this exposure has occurred in one thirtythousandths of the time that it takes for him to go into orbit.
In rocket sled experiments with the volunteer subject going from 154 miles per hour to 34 miles per hour in a quarter of a second, a 120-mile-an-hour speed change in one-fourth of a second, he withstands 2,550,000 foot-pounds of kinetic energy change. This is 50 times more kinetic energy change than the astronaut experienced in being dropped 10 feet to the concrete floor and it takes place in 25 times the duration of the astronaut's impact on the concrete floor. This kinetic energy change can be withstood without injury. Somewhere between the orbiting astronaut and the astronaut dropping on the concrete floor are combinations of kinetic energy change and duration which can be safely sustained. On the basis of knowing this spectrum of kinetic energy change versus durations we can make recommendations on safe limits of human exposure.
Much more research has been done and still needs to be due on optimum packaging and restraining of the body and on energy absorbing devices to take dangerous kinetic energy-duration combinations and attenuate them into survivable and noninjurious exposures,
This basic research which needs to be carried out falls very appropriately within the scope of H.R. 133. I could go on and cite numerous other basic and applied research problems that need to be done in the field of crash protection. The Honorable Wilbur J. Cohen gave you an excellent exposition on some problems for research in accident prevention.
With both of these lines of research applied to the accident problem we are bound to have a growing accumulation of success in dealing with the very high rate of accidents and with the high rates of injury and loss of life that constitute an enormous loss in useful lives and in income, and even in tax revenue for this Nation.
That concludes my statement. Mr. Roberts. Thank you, Colonel. I was particularly impressed with your statement, aside from the fact that the Air Force has cut its loss of lives I believe by almost 50 percent, and I believe you stated from over 700 down to in the neighborhood of 400 lives, aside from the humane considerations, loss of head of a family or the heartache and the suffering that such a loss also brings with it.
As a matter of dollars and cents investment how much would you estimate that the Air Force saved the U.S. Government in cutting that loss 50 percent?
Colonel STAPP. Since these were people in uniform, not their families, but just the members of the Air Force, if 300 fewer of them died, multiply that by $40,000 and I think that you come to a reasonable estimate of the saving.
Mr. ROBERTS. According to the way I have calculated it, it would be in the neighborhood of $12 million, would it not?
Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir.
Mr. ROBERTS. And this improvement has come about in the past year?
Colonel STAPP. Past 7 years, through 1961.
Mr. ROBERTS. How long were you in charge of the automotive crash research project that the Air Force conducted?
Colonel STAPP. At Edwards and Holloman Air Force Base we began programs on aircraft crash survival and escape from aircraft, the same methods and the same human tolerances applied in case of automobile and ground vehicle accidents. Therefore we did specific research in that area from 1955 through 1958. The overall program on crash research began in 1947 and still continues.
Mr. ROBERTS. At the time you were in charge of that program what was your annual budget?
Colonel STAPP. I believe it was about $30,000 a year specifically on automobile crash research. Of course we were using salvage automobiles, the ones that could not be sold because the motors would not run. Therefore, we towed them in our crash simulation experiments.
Mr. ROBERTS. Were other services conducting similar type programs, or was this the only one within the armed services at that time?
Colonel STAPP. This was the only one in the armed services.
Mr. ROBERTS. It is my understanding that this was the basis for the factual data that has been successfully used in the successful orbiting of our astronauts. I won't say most, but I will say a great deal of information came out of this crash program. Is that correct? Is that a fair statement?
Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir, that is right. In some of the rocket sled runs simulating aircraft escape conditions in flight, velocities attained and the durations of accelerations in horizontal track runs corresponded to those of vertical rocket launches.
Mr. ROBERTS. That program is not in existence at the present time, is it, Colonel?
Colonel STAPP. The automobile crash program is not in existence. Mr. ROBERTS. It has been abandoned because of lack of funds?
Colonel STAPP. It was discontinued when submitted for funding in 1958.
Mr. Roberts. Is there any similar program now being conducted by any of the services that you know anything about in the automotive field?
Colonel STAPP. Not specifically in the automotive crash area.
Mr. ROBERTS. Is not this loss of life common o the other services just as it is to the Air Force?
Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir, and so is the information which we obtained from our investigations and which was made available to other branches of the Armed Forces and to the automotive industry.
Mr. ROBERTS. The old cars were nonsalvageable vehicles that were made available on a free basis?
Colonel STAPP. That is right. They were ones that could not be sold.
Mr. ROBERTS. Again I want to thank you very much for your appearance and your fine presentation that you always make. Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Colonel, I am quite fascinated by those figures. With respect to these people whose lives were saved, these drivers that were instructed, in this young category, weren't they the ones that without too much discipline on the highways are responsible for very heavy percentage of accidents?
Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir. Further, a very interesting comparison. I have the figures for the year 1961. Only 12 deaths occurred in official vehicle accidents during that year. The remainder of the deaths, in the order of 300 a year occurred in private vehicle accidents with vehicles driven or occupied by members of the Air Force.
Mr. O'BRIEN. I assume that the research, and advice, and so forth had a great deal to do with it, but wasn't discipline a factor in there too?
Colonel STAPP. I think the discipline made the difference between the 15 deaths in official vehicles, driven under orders and 300 someodd private vehicles driven at the discretion of the owner.
Mr. O'Brien. But even in the private vehicle there was a reduction? Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir, a reduction compared with previous years of the Air Force.
Mr. O'BRIEN. That could have been, in addition to the research, a carryover of the discipline because there would be a way of punishing the fellow?
Colonel STAPP. I think, though, that the discipline factor has remained fairly constant.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Yes. What I am getting at is that with research, and we are applying this to young people and older people who are not in the armed services, there has to be some form of discipline or loss of privilege hand-in-hand with the research.
Colonel STAPP. About the same in civilian life as we have in the Armed Forces actually because the same violations meet about the same punishments.
Mr. O'BRIEN. In addition, they have to face a commanding officer after it is over.
Colonel STAPP. Many men have to face their wives after it is over too.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Or wives face their husbands. Colonel, one final question. You mentioned Sweden. Do you happen to know what the answer is there that they have such a remarkable record compared with ours?
Colonel STAPP. Yes, sir. 80 percent of the automobiles in Sweden are equipped with seat belts, and in addition, most of them have a diagonal body strap going over the outside shoulder and attached to the side post of the car. In Sweden the penalty for driving while intoxicated, and there the intoxication level is considered to be, I believe, 70 parts percent versus the 150-200 parts percent of blood alcohol level considered intoxication here, is that they go to jail for up to 3 months and have to go through complete driver training before being eligible to apply for a driver's license and take a test in about 3 years.
As a result there are lots of women drivers in Sweden. They are greatly appreciated after parties.
Mr. O'BRIEN. Thank you very much, Colonel.
Mr. ROBERTS. Since the House of Representatives is meeting this afternoon the hearing will be recessed until tomorrow at the same time in the same hearing room at which time we will have other important witnesses on H.R. 133.
(Whereupon, at 11:50 a.m. the hearing was recessed, to reconvene at 10 a.m., Wednesday, April 10, 1963.)