New book & rating system highlight clash over car safety

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*Correction: The cover of the book shown in the live broadcast was a different book cover and was shown in error. Norma Hubele’s book is called “Backseat Driver: The Role of Data in Great Car Safety Debates.” To find her book, click here:

Norma Faris Hubele, PhD, is an Arizona State University statistics professor emerita. Hubele has been an expert witness in over 120 automobile safety cases.

Hubele has written a book called, “Backseat Driver: The Role of Data in Great Car Safety Debates.” She uses real-life, tragic stories to frame her book’s debates. It looks at how car manufacturers, safety advocates and lawmakers have clashed for decades over whether to make vehicles safer. Hubele created the first-ever, consumer car safety rating system using real crash data called Auto Grades. Applying an easy-to-understand ranking from A (the best protection) to F (the worst protection), the safety rating system gives consumers the power to make real comparisons.

“The data isn’t always clear, and there’s often the excuse that it comes down to driver behavior,” Hubele said. “So driver behavior is important, but in reality, vehicles are driven by humans, and we’re flawed. And so emergency braking helps humans who may be distracted to brake faster.”

Seatbelts keep people in place in the event of a crash, Hubele added. The debates come down to a point of view of what to fix next.

Hubele said that people talk a lot about data. When it comes down to car crashes or stories about what happened to passengers, whether the car rolled over or a child was injured while backing out of a driveway, those stories are coded into a database.

“When safety advocates, industry leaders and government leaders clash over ‘should we make these vehicles safer?’ they try to use the stories that are coded into the data to say this could save lives or this really couldn’t help somebody,” she said.

Dr. Hubele has spent her life serving the public as a professor, consumer advocate, and automotive safety expert. She has been a statistician and educator for more than three decades.

Dr. Hubele studied mathematics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After receiving her Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she joined the engineering faculty at Arizona State University as only the third woman in a faculty of more than 100 professors.

Dr. Hubele was the first to assume the position of Director of Strategic Initiatives for the entire school of engineering. She was also the first to reach the rank of full professor while balancing work and family in a part-time capacity, and also the first pregnant faculty member. She is now an Arizona State University statistics professor emerita.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Hubele has served as an expert witness in more than 120 consumer-related cases. The vast majority of her expert witness work over the past 30 years has been in the area of automotive safety.

For years, Dr. Hubele has been helping educate the courts about when statistics can be used to inform decisions and when they cannot. She has been involved in debates about a wide cross-section of automotive safety issues, including gas tank placement, rollover risk, child protection in rear seating, and seatback failure.

Again, learn more about Dr. Hubele by clicking here:

Norma Faris Hubele, PhD and author

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