Research that matters
Helping to make Britain's roads safer
Vehicles equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) are 25% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it, according to research by Loughborough's Vehicle Safety Research Centre. If every vehicle on the road were fitted with ESC, this would equate to approximately 380 fewer fatal accidents each year.
ESC is a computer-controlled technology that automatically controls the vehicle by comparing the driver's steering and braking actions with what is actually happening. On-board sensors measure the speed, steering wheel angle, direction of travel and lateral acceleration of the vehicle. If the calculated path of travel is different to that dictated by the sensors it will apply individual brakes to correct the deviation.
Commissioned by the Department for Transport, the research found that ESC was especially effective in helping to prevent crashes that involved a vehicle skidding or overturning, with the potential to reduce serious accidents like this by up to 59%. As well as this, it concluded that ESC could offer additional benefits in adverse road conditions such as wet or snowy weather.
Studies from various countries have already shown it to be very effective at reducing accidents, but the Loughborough study is the first to specifically analyse UK roads. The UK ranks 21 out of 27 in the number of new cars fitted with ESC in EU member states.
Former Road Safety Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said: "(This) research proves what a powerful tool ESC could be in saving lives. I urge anyone thinking of buying a new car to consider the safety benefits that ESC could bring. Ask the vendor if it comes as standard and if not, investigate whether it could be fitted as an option. I also call on manufacturers to fit this important piece of kit as standard more widely – it's not expensive and has the potential to make our roads significantly safer."
Building tomorrow's world
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Loughborough was this year selected as the only UK university to take part in a new four-year European-wide project to create a construction industry capable of building the homes and offices of tomorrow.
The €17.5 million I3CON (Industrialised, Integrated, Intelligent Construction) project brings together 26 partners from 14 countries, including the University's European Union Research Group, based in the Department of Civil and Building Engineering. I3CON will apply innovative construction and production technologies to enable the development of a sustainable and environmentally friendly construction industry that can deliver the 'intelligent' buildings of the future.
Dr Tarek Hassan, who is leading Loughborough's involvement in the project, says: "Traditionally when a new building is put up, the shell is erected and then everything else is added in after. This project aims to change that entire process."These 'smart' buildings will also have in-built intelligence. Based on various occupant profiles, the buildings will know if the temperature needs to go up or down without anyone having to flick a switch, or if the lights need to go on or off – making them more efficient, better for the environment and improving the productivity and quality of life of the occupants. They will also be cheaper and quicker to build, and cost significantly less to maintain."
The hidden consequences of the congestion charge
The London congestion charge may be having an adverse effect on motorcyclist and cyclist casualties, according to researchers at Loughborough University and Imperial College London.
The study analysed the effect of the congestion charge on traffic casualty figures for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, based on figures taken from January 1991 to February 2003 – 21 months after the introduction of the congestion charge. Researchers examined killed and serious traffic injuries, known as KSI, and slight injuries to see whether there were any shifts in total outcomes.
With colleagues from Imperial, Dr Mohammed Quddus, from Loughborough's Department of Civil and Building Engineering, found an increase of up to 40 more motorcycling casualties per month during the congestion charging period (from 7am- 6.30pm) for inner London, excluding the congestion zone. However, there were 5.6 fewer motorist casualties per month in the congestion charging zone.
Transport for London data indicates that motorcycle trips within the charging zone have increased by about 15%. The researchers suggest that the incentive to use motorcycles, which are exempt from the congestion charge, could explain why parts of London have experienced an increase in motorcycle casualties.
Looking at the outer London area, the research team saw a reduction in slight injuries for motorists and an increase in cyclist casualties – a consequence, they speculate, of the congestion charge effecting an increase in the number of cyclists commuting to rail stations.
From their work, the researchers believe the impact of any transport policy needs to consider unintended consequences, and that a change in the design of the congestion charge, or the introduction of other policies, may be needed to achieve reductions in motorcycle and bicycle casualties.
Research findings could prove crucial for Britain's 2012 Olympics build up
Research by Loughborough's Institute of Youth Sport (IYS) has revealed that youngsters born in the autumn are more likely to be involved in junior and elite level sport than children born later in the school year. The findings reaffirm the existence in many sports of a phenomenon known as the ‘relative age effect', which appears to show that children who are the youngest in their class or peer group are much less likely to go on to achieve high-level sporting performance.
The study – undertaken for the national sports think-tank, Sportnation – also revealed that while the relative age effect exists for girls in some sports, it is especially apparent for boys, being endemic across both team and individual sports.
“In the junior and senior elite squads of several sports, including football, athletics, swimming and tennis, there is an overrepresentation of children born in the autumn, compared to what would be expected based on normal birth rates," says Dr John Morris of the IYS."It would appear that the relative age effect, certainly in some sports, crucially influences the opportunities to achieve high-level sporting performance."
The report claims that the relative age effect is widespread in schools, clubs and sports organisations. It also suggests that young people who have missed out on early selection also miss out on access to more coaching and further development.
As part of the project, Sportnation also investigated people's experience of school to find out how they felt about sport in their early years. More than a third of the adults polled, and 48% in inner cities, said they had been unfairly treated by teachers. More than half, and 64% in inner cities, felt teachers had favoured the biggest and oldest children in class. The poll also showed that by the age of 13, 58%, and 62% in inner cities, had given up hope of being successful at sport.
In light of the research, Sportnation made a series of recommendations to encourage and help the national governing bodies of sport tackle the issue and look seriously at practical measures that will give every youngster a sporting chance to develop their potential and succeed.
Pictures of caring
A study by Loughborough's Young Carers Research Group (YCRG) this year provided a visual insight into what living with and caring for a parent with serious mental health problems is like through the eyes of children and young people.
For the study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, sixteen young carers were given cameras to create their own photo diaries. As well as revealing what sort of domestic tasks young carers undertake, such as washing up, cleaning, caring for siblings and parents and administering medication, the study also revealed the strategies that children use in order to cope with their caring responsibilities.
While other studies have revealed, through interviews, what the children do, this research gave a more detailed personal insight from the children's visual perspectives, showing the ways in which they deal with their lives as carers and how they negotiate caring with school life and friendships.
The children and young people also enjoyed taking an active part in the research process and being in charge of their own data collection."This approach is much more in line with recent Government thinking and policy on children's inclusion, participation and in consulting with them," explains Jo Aldridge, Director of the YCRG."The study shows that children are competent social agents, not just as carers but as children with stories to tell about their lives."
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The key messages to policy makers that emerged from the study were that children can and do cope with parental mental illness and caring. But young carers also need information, particularly about mental illness, formal support services and recognition for the contributions they make as carers.
"The role of friends, close parent-child relationships, home based activities, faith and even family pets all need careful consideration when addressing these children's needs and helping them to cope with parental illness," says Jo."These children want the public and professionals to see what it is like to be a young carer and how they cope with their lives."