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Teen killed in Benton SUV crash

By CHRIS CHURCHILL
Staff Writer

State police investigator Jim Wright examines tires on an overturned Toyota 4-Runner, driven by Kathy Bragg, that collided with a Dodge Stratus, driven by Peter Stinson, on Route 100 in Benton on Wednesday. Melissa Bragg, 14, a passenger in the Toyota, died in the accident. Kathy Bragg, Stinson and two other children in the 4-Runner were not injured.

BENTON - February 10, 2005 - A 14-year-old China girl was killed Wednesday in a two-vehicle crash after a sport utility vehicle rolled over on Route 100.

Investigators at the scene said it appeared a red Toyota 4-Runner driven by Kathy Bragg, 40, of China crossed the center line at 12:30 p.m., perhaps to turn into a driveway, and collided with a Dodge Stratus driven by Peter Stinson, 39.

Police said the collision caused the Toyota to roll over, partly ejecting a front-seat passenger, Melissa Bragg, from the vehicle.

Bragg, an eighth-grader at China Middle School, died at the scene; police said it appeared she had not been wearing a seat belt.

Stinson, Kathy Bragg, and two small boys riding in the back seat of the Toyota avoided injury, police said, but nevertheless were taken to Thayer Unit, MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville. The boys, one 3 and the other 18 months, were strapped into car seats.

State Trooper Christopher A. Carr said it did not appear excessive speed or alcohol were factors in the crash.

The accident happened near Applewood Kennels, along a relatively straight stretch of road. The crash left the Toyota on its side and straddling the roadway, while the Dodge rested on a lawn near two homes.

Police covered the Toyota with a tarp as the investigation proceeded. The roadway was closed to traffic for about an hour.

Neighbors gathered as investigators looked over the scene. Richard Poulin, who said he had lived in the neighborhood for about 25 years, said he could not remember a similar accident along this stretch of the road.

"It's a wonder it hasn't happened (before)," Poulin said. "It's a very fast-moving road."

Administrators in School Union 52 and China Middle School were notified of the crash by mid-afternoon Wednesday and made plans to tell students what had happened.

"We will be having counselors available for the students to talk with," said Principal Brenda Beale. "They will be available for the entire day."

If school is canceled today -- a snowstorm looms -- counselors will be in the school on Friday, Beale said. She also said parents wondering how to speak to their children about the accident can call counselor Lois Bowden at 445-2065.

The principal said Melissa Bragg had attended China schools since kindergarten. Bragg briefly attended Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield last year, Beale said, but soon returned to China Middle School, where she sang in the chorus.

"Her music teacher said that she had a really sweet voice," Beale said.

Chris Churchill -- 861-9252

cchurchill@centralmaine.com


Several automakers get top marks in crash tests
WASHINGTON - Vehicles made by Hyundai Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG and Subaru of America Inc. were given top honors in new crash tests of sport-utility vehicles, minivans and sedans.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave five stars yesterday for front and side-impact protection to the Hyundai Sonata sedan and Tucson SUV, Honda Odyssey minivan, Mercedes-Benz ML Class SUV and Subaru B9 Tribeca SUV.

The Pontiac G6 two-door coupe received the top score in rollover protection, with the government estimating a 9 percent chance of rollover in the vehicle.

The Mitsubishi Lancer fared the worst in side-impact protection among the vehicles. Its score was based on previous testing and gives a 21 percent to 25 percent chance of serious injury in a wreck.


U.S. plans to require stability control on all new cars

By KEN THOMAS

Associated Press - September 13, 2006 - WASHINGTON — The government, impressed by the promise of anti-rollover technology, is planning to require automakers to include electronic stability control devices on all new vehicles in the coming years.

The technology has been hailed by automakers, suppliers and safety advocates for its potential in reducing traffic deaths and rollovers. The government’s top traffic safety official has said it could have the greatest impact on auto safety since the arrival of seat belts.

About 40% of new vehicles have it as standard equipment and auto industry officials expect it to be available on all vehicles by 2010. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is set to unveil proposed rules for stability control on Thursday that also will include testing standards for auto manufacturers. NHTSA officials have declined to release details.

One study found that stability control could lead to a reduction of 10,000 deaths a year if all vehicles had the technology, a significant chunk of the more than 43,000 people killed on the roads annually.

“These are staggering statistics compared to most safety technologies that are installed on the vehicles today. This technology will save lives,” said William Kozyra, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems, North America, a leading supplier of stability control.

Kozyra called it “the most important automotive safety technology of our generation.”
The crash avoidance technology senses when a driver may lose control, automatically applying brakes to individual wheels to help make it stable and avoid a rollover. Many sport utility vehicles, vans and pickups have the equipment.

NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason has said the agency will mandate the equipment, estimating it would save 10,600 lives when fully implemented into the fleet. During a July hearing before Congress, she said it “could be the greatest
safety innovation since the safety belt.”

Rollovers have had particularly fatal consequences, leading to more than 10,000
deaths a year despite accounting for only about 3 percent of all crashes. SUVs and other vehicles with high centers of gravity have been susceptible to rollovers.

Automakers have been receptive to the technology and have indicated little resistance in the decision to mandate the equipment because they have been implementing it onto their vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday that it would make it standard equipment in all new vehicles by the end of 2009 while General Motors Corp. has said it will be included in all vehicles by the end of 2010. Virtually all Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles have it as an option and it has been standard on all Toyota SUVs since the 2004 model year.

Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator and head of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog, called electronic stability control “breakthrough technology” but said it would be difficult to predict how many lives it could save.

Early in the development of the air bag, she said initial studies predicted it could save about 9,000 people a year, much higher than the 2,300 lives it saves annually.
“Until you get it into production and onto vehicles, you don’t know how large the numbers are going to be,” Claybrook said.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this year predicted 10,000 deaths could be prevented a year if passenger vehicles had the technology.
The study found stability control reduced the risk of single-vehicle rollovers involving SUVs by 80 percent.

One of the benefits of stability control is that it doesn’t require anything from the driver. While other crash avoidance technologies, such as lane departure warning, require the driver to react, stability control senses the vehicle veering out of control and stabilizes it.

“There really isn’t any downsides that we’re seeing,” said Russ Rader, an IIHS spokesman. “ESC is in a unique club with only seat belts and air bags for it’s lifesaving potential.”

Automakers caution that seat belts will remain the most essential tool in avoiding death or injury in a crash. Seat belts save an estimated 15,000 motorist a year, prompting the government to push primary enforcement laws across the nation.

Robert Yakushi, Nissan North America Inc.’s director of product safety, environmental, said the technology “shouldn’t be characterized as a cure-all for all handling situations” but something that helps drivers maintain control in some
situations.

“If everyone depends on vehicle stability control, I think, to save them in every situation, I think that builds overconfidence in the driver,” Yakushi said, stressing that “the driver is key to vehicle safety.”




 

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