Volume 8, Issue 6 - November/December 2006

A Man on a Safety Mission
Auto Safety Expert and AGRSS Conference Keynoter Byron Bloch talks to AGRR about Auto Glass

Noted auto safety expert Byron Bloch will deliver this year’s keynote address at the AGRSS Conference, Wednesday, November 1 at 9:15 a.m. in Las Vegas.

Bloch has appeared as an auto safety consultant on such television news programs as ABC News’ “20/20,” “Primetime Live” and “Nightline” as well as CBS News’ “60 Minutes” and “Public Eye” and NBC News’ “Dateline NBC.”

He has been a safety expert for 30 years, consulting and testifying in court cases regarding auto defects, and he is a court-qualified expert in auto safety design and vehicle crashworthiness and has testified at Congressional hearings and to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

He has fought for safer fuel tanks, stronger seats, airbag requirements and better truck under-ride guards. The emphasis of his fight for vehicle safety has been on the evaluation of vehicle crashworthiness—how well or how poorly the vehicle structure and features protect the driver and passengers from injury or death in a collision accident. More information on this is available at his Web site www.AutoSafetyExpert.com.

AGRR recently spoke with Bloch about automotive safety and specifically the role of glass.

AGRR: How important is the windshield to the overall safety of the car?

BB: Based on my 40 years of experience as an auto safety expert, coast to coast, and having inspected hundreds of accident vehicles of all types, it is absolutely a critical component for motor vehicle safety. The windshield plays a very, very critical, important part in ensuring the occupant is retained within the vehicle and it also serves as a very necessary support system for the front airbag system and it is a significant support for the roof structure. In additional situations, it serves to protect from objects that might otherwise penetrate through the windshield if it were not retained intact.

AGRR: What are the biggest problems that can be caused by improperly installed windshields?

BB: The biggest problems emerge from the poor attachment of the windshield to its surround. In a collision or rollover accident, if the windshield becomes partially or totally separated from the vehicle body, then it creates a very large opening in which the individual can be ejected out of the vehicle, either totally or partially. In a rollover accident, if the windshield becomes separated it can significantly weaken the roof support that would keep it from buckling and crushing down on the occupants inside. 

AGRR: It’s a well-known fact within the AGR industry that at least once every two weeks a car involved in a fatal accident has had its windshield installed within the prior 48 hours. How could such installations affect the safety of the occupants? 

BB: The windshield is a critical safety component in keeping the occupants in the vehicle and to help support the roof in a rollover accident, and also helping in the functionality of the airbags. If the windshield is not properly adhesived and cured, that is, out on the road without adequate bonding to its periphery, and the windshield then comes completely or partially separated, it is a disaster. The adhesive manufacturers have recommendations for cure times to completely set up the bonding of the windshield. The types of adhesives, the temperature and humidity—there are various factors involved and it is absolutely mandatory that the windshield be fully cured and bonded, maximum strength, before it is out on the road and involved in a potential accident situation. 

AGRR: You are a big proponent of laminated sidelites. Can you explain what added safety benefits they offer?

BB: I’ve long been a proponent of laminated sidelites (preferably the two pieces of glass bonded to an interlayer much like the windshield is constructed) because the side window plays a large safety role in preventing either the partial evacuation of an occupant who has the belt and shoulder restraints on but whose head goes outside the vehicle or complete ejection of the occupants from the vehicle. It is a “life net” to help maintain the occupant from being ejected. Another point is that it stays in place and serves as a reaction panel to help stabilize and support the side curtain airbags which have been introduced over the last four or five years and are rapidly becoming a standard equipment item in most vehicles. I think it should be in all vehicles. They should all have side curtain airbags and laminated side windows.

AGRR: The AGRSS Standard requires that no replacements be done in situations where corrosion will jeopardize the safety of the installation. Yet, many shops have difficulty getting insurance companies to reimburse for such a correction, as well as other safety issues. What advice would you have for them?

BB: I recognize the problem, and it is a very important one, because the bonding of the windshield to its periphery can be deteriorated significantly if there is any corrosion, which keeps the glass installer from having the ability to make sure the bonding is 100 percent according to the maximum safety specifications. The corrosion issue is something that the insurance companies and the glass installers and glass industry have to seriously talk about and resolve. By that I mean the corrosion has to be taken care of before a replacement windshield is installed. The insurance companies have to recognize that it is a life-and-death issue. Let’s say there is so much corrosion that the windshield separates in a rollover accident and the occupant is ejected or the roof buckles because of the windshield separation and the person is killed or becomes a quadriplegic, the liability issues alone, not to mention the humanitarian concerns, should warrant the insurance industry to concur with the auto glass installers, manufacturers and adhesive suppliers that the corrosion issue should be taken care of at the same time as the installation. 

AGRR: How can glass shops distinguish themselves with regard to safety?

BB: I want to praise very much what AGRSS has done and I think it is important that the auto glass installers adhere to the principles and specifications of the Standard. It is a very good foundation to give the public confidence where the symbol is displayed. If there is literature available at the facility where the customer is, this could help create confidence and a dialog as to how a windshield is installed and the safety principles that we strictly adhere to. The primary concern is your—the customer’s—safety.

AGRR: Have you ever been involved in cases involving glass in the car? 

BB: Yes, quite a few. Past, present, and unfortunately, probably many more in the years to come, because there are many bad installations in the factory as well as replacements. It’s still a big concern as to windshields from their surround as well as the sidelites and the backlites.

AGRR: How many cases have you worked on that involved the glass?

BB: Mind you I’ve been doing this work for approximately 40 years and many dozens of cases over the years have involved glazing in one form or another. Some involved an occupant in a rear impact where the combination of a weak seat backrest and poor retention of the backlite, sometimes in a hatchback vehicle, causes an occupant in the front or middle seat to be ejected out of the rear window opening because the glass has not stayed properly in position. Sometimes it is because the backlite or sidelite has shattered and created an opening through which the occupant is partially or totally ejected as the vehicle rolls over. I have worked on many such cases.

AGRR: What advice would you have for shops on how to make consumers care enough about safety to choose AGRSS registered shops? 

BB: I think they should proudly have on their clothing, signage, and literature the AGRSS symbol and what it stands for. There should be available literature, and at the installation facility it would be good if there were even a video player so that a DVD could be popped in to give the consumer a bit of enlightenment in a 2-to-5 minute presentation as to what principle the AGRSS facility is trying to adhere to for the safety of that consumer. 

I would also suggest that, like the crash test results which have been released to the public, AGRSS should consider, on some scale, a rollover test (or whatever) to show the difference between an installation that is properly done versus one that is not.
AGRR: What is your background and how did you get into the auto safety business?

BB: My background is a blend of industrial and product design and human-factors engineering studies. After graduating, I worked in industry for awhile and was able to work on various industry projects that related to aerospace and military weapons systems and I saw the meticulous attention that was paid to these products and the lack of this in automotive vehicles. I had always been concerned with product safety. One of the principles of the industrial design profession is that a product be safe as well as efficient, durable and repairable. By the mid 1960s, I was interested in vehicle safety and following the Congressional hearings of that period I was convinced that vehicle safety needed much more rigorous analysis and input so that vehicles could be made more safe and crashworthy. The occupants deserved better protection so that they could survive without fatal injuries. I set about reviewing crash tests and as I started lecturing on the subject and advising or enlightening the public on vehicle safety and what was possible and what was being produced to make vehicles safer; it turned into a 40-year odyssey. 

My career has allowed me access to so many aspects of our society. I’ve testified at Congressional hearings. I’ve been involved in spreading the word to the public through network television, and doing a series of reports for seven years twice a week on the ABC news station in Los Angeles. Even doing twice a week reports for seven years, I never ran out of material regarding vehicle safety, which I think is an indication of the profound influence of vehicle safety in our society. It is very critical. Many individual’s and families’ lives can change in the blink of an eye with an accident. What I have personally discovered over the years is that the difference between a severe or fatal injury versus a minimal injury in an accident is due to a lack or blunder in the design of the vehicle, often hidden from view and the knowledge of vehicle purchasers and occupants.

AGRR: What did you think of the infamous 20/20 segment on auto glass replacement and what advice would you give the industry in the wake of its appearance?

BB: First, public enlightenment is very important so that the public can ask the right questions and can distinguish between a glass replacement facility that has well trained technicians and adheres to the AGRSS Standard and those which don’t. They have to ask the right questions based on seeing the AGRSS signage and logos. Also what I think needs to be done is that the gap between the insurance companies paying out less dollars for lower quality repairs has to stop. I think when the insurance company authorizes proceeding with the repair of the vehicle that insurance company is saying the facility, to its knowledge and having checked the facility and its track record, is a proper place to have a proper installation done. The insurance companies have to work more cooperatively so that it’s not just the cheapest windshield installation and that’s the end of it. 

AGRR: There is no aftermarket regulation by NHTSA. Is this a good or bad thing and why?

BB: That’s a very interesting question. I think there needs to be involvement by NHTSA in the collision repair industry including window glazing. I think it needs to continue to look into this area and take a much stronger position. For example, the vehicles that we entrust our lives in every day on the road may deteriorate whether it’s the seat belt, airbag system, glazing, adhesion, or other aspects of deterioration; an issue to be addressed is whether the repair work after an incident or accident has been safely and competently done. These are big issues and there is a lot of work yet to be done to be sure that a vehicle is repaired in every sense inclusive of the glazing.

AGRR: Where do you think in the near-term future the question of safety and glazing as well as overall safety in vehicles is going?

BB: When I say there is a lot to be done, let me say that I find it amazing that there is a 20- to 30-year gap between when a safety technology is feasible and able to be implemented and when it is in general use by vehicle manufacturers. One example is that in 1973 GM mass produced a fleet of 1,000 Chevy Impalas with airbags for the driver and front seat passenger. It was a dual-pressure system that inflated more softly in low speed crashes and more firmly in high-speed crashes in order to avoid risk to small children who might be on the front seat. I own one of those Impalas. That technology was installed and it was a marvelous technology for its time. It was withdrawn from the market after a short period. It was many years before airbags came back into our mass-produced vehicles. Imagine all the lives that were severely affected by this gap in time. 

The industry is moving very quickly into side window glazing. It can and should have been done 20 or 30 years ago. Certainly it is commendable that laminated sidelites and backlites are being put into vehicles. I’m encouraging that this type of window be made standard equipment as soon as practicable in all vehicles. The combination of laminated side glazing in all passenger vehicles in conjunction with side curtain airbags will significantly decrease injury and death in side impact collisions and rollover accidents. 

Your industry might want to take a look at the retrofit of these systems. Someone who has an older vehicle they intend to keep for a few years might want laminated sidelites in their vehicle. It would be good if they could have that glass replaced with laminated glass that fits into the same track as the tempered glass. 

AGRR: Any other comments?

BB: I would like to say I am very pleased to see how the automotive glass industry has been proceeding through AGRSS and that there is an effort to focus on proper training of the technicians who install the glass and the better adhesives that are used and the better preparation that is taking place for the installation of the glass concerning areas that we’ve spoken about earlier like corrosion. I am also greatly looking forward to coming out to Las Vegas for the conference. I think it is terrific that AGRSS supports getting its members together to discuss areas of common interest and how to increase the safety of glass repair and replacement. 

I’ve known Ralph Nader for about 40 years and I understand he was well received when he gave the keynote speech last year. I try to make presentations visual so I plan to have some intriguing visual materials to highlight some of the points which I want to make.

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