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Safety lessons from the morgue

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [...]

    From the article:

    In 1967, [Susan P. Baker], then in her first year of a master’s program in public-health epidemiology at Johns Hopkins and a mother of three, joined her husband, Tim, on a trip to Annapolis. Tim Baker, a professor of international health at Johns Hopkins, was planning to testify at a legislative committee hearing in support of a bill, radical at the time, to allow the police to test motorists for the presence of alcohol if they suspected drunken driving.

    During the hearing, a toxicologist testified that 50,000 people died each year in car crashes. “I was horrified,” Baker recalled, “and I realized that Hopkins wasn’t doing anything about it — no research in injury prevention, no courses, not even a single lecture.”

    She embarked on an independent research project — a comparison of drivers who were not responsible for their fatal crashes with drivers who were — and in 1968 she sent Haddon a letter seeking federal financing for her study. He came through with $10,000 and continued to finance her research after he became president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety a year later.

    Baker, meanwhile, got a job as a junior faculty member in forensic pathology with access to what she called “a gold mine of data” in the Baltimore medical examiner’s office. Each morning she would visit the autopsy room to see the bodies that had arrived overnight, looking for patterns to the injuries — what parts of the body were damaged and what caused the death.


    Among Baker’s most important legacies is the widespread use of the infant car seat. By examining data from car crashes, she demonstrated that the passengers most likely to die were those younger than 6 months. They were killed at double the rate of 1-year-olds and triple the rate for ages 6 to 12. Why? Because babies rested in their mothers’ arms or laps, often in the front passenger seat, and because their still-fragile bodies were more susceptible to fatal injury than those of older children. Baker published her study in the journal Pediatrics in 1979, making headlines in newspapers across the country.

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