Remembering Dr. William Haddon Jr.

Today is the birth anniversary of Dr. William Haddon Jr. who was born in Orange, N.J., on May 24, 1926 and is widely regarded as the father of modern injury epidemiology.
He was appointed in 1966 as the first administrator of the newly created National Traffic Safety Agency and the National Highway Safety Agency. The two agencies were consolidated in 1967 into the National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB) and later, in 1970, it became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

As administrator of the NHSB, Dr. Haddon was responsible for setting the first Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards. Even today the FMVSS follows the concept of pre-crash, crash and post-crash in the listing of the standards as 100 series for pre-crash, 200 series for crash and 300 series for post-crash.

When a new political administration took office in January 1969 Dr. Haddon resigned from the NHSB, and shortly after he became the President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), where he remained until his death in 1985.Under his leadership IIHS became a leader in vehicle and highway safety research.

He argued for a more scientifically driven approach to injury control and created conceptual frameworks, such as the Haddon Matrix, for understanding how injuries occur and developing strategies for intervention. His pioneering efforts helped transform the highway safety field from one focused solely on accident prevention to one that examines human, vehicle and environmental factors to identify the range of pre-crash, crash and post-crash interventions for reducing crash losses. Dr. Haddon believed that “the understanding and prevention of disease and injury should be the first strategy of medicine and that treatment, no matter how necessary, is not the logical first line of attack.” Dr. Haddon was one of the first promoters of the airbag as a device for reducing injuries, and he remained its champion throughout the long debate over its effectiveness.

(Source: with specific edits by Ravishankar Rajaraman)

In memory of this pioneer, who gave us the Haddon Matrix, we share two of his papers which will be an interesting read and an eye-opener for you.

Happy reading!