Implications of Functional Capacity Loss and Fatality for Vehicle Safety Prioritization

Timothy L. McMurry, Chris Sherwood, Gerald S. Poplin, María Seguí-Gómez, Jeff Crandall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: We investigate the use of the Functional Capacity Index (FCI) as a tool for establishing vehicle safety priorities by comparing the life year burden of injuries to the burden of fatality in frontal and side automotive crashes. We demonstrate FCI’s utility by investigating in detail the resulting disabling injuries and their life year costs. Methods: We selected occupants in the 2000–2013 NASS-CDS database involved in frontal and side crashes, merged their injuries with FCI, and then used the merged data to estimate each occupant’s overall functional loss. Lifetime functional loss was assessed by combining this measure of impairment with the occupants’ expected future life spans, estimated from the Social Security Administration’s Actuarial Life Table. Results: Frontal crashes produce a large number of disabling injuries, particularly to the lower extremities. In our population, these crashes are estimated to account for approximately 400,000 life years lost to disability in comparison with 500,000 life years lost to fatality. Victims of side crashes experienced a higher rate of fatality but a significantly lower rate of disabling injury (0.3 vs. 1.0%), resulting in approximately 370,000 life years lost to fatality versus 50,000 life years lost to disability. Conclusions: The burden of disabling injuries to car crash survivors should be considered when setting vehicle safety design priorities. In frontal crashes this burden in life years is similar to the burden attributable to fatality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-145
Number of pages6
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
StatePublished - Oct 8 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • disability
  • impairment
  • injury burden
  • societal cost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Safety Research
  • General Medicine


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