Ensuring the Auto Safety System Works

Ensuring the Auto Safety System Works

Byron Bloch Profile

Byron Bloch was inspired by Senate hearings on auto safety by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960s.

When a driver or passenger is severely injured in a car crash accident, auto safety consultant Byron Bloch studies whether there were any unsafe aspects of the vehicle that could have caused the injuries.

Auto Safety Consultant:Ensuring System Works

Name: Byron Bloch

Number of years lived in Potomac: 15.

Employment: “When someone is severely injured or killed in a car crash accident, I’m hired by his or her attorney to analyze whether or not there were any unsafe aspects of his or her vehicle that may have needlessly caused those severe injuries. To be more technical, I’m an independent consultant in auto safety design and vehicle crashworthiness, my profession for the past 30-plus years, and I work on cases coast to coast.”

Education: “I first studied at Northwestern University, then the University of Kansas, and then graduated from UCLA, where I majored in industrial design.”

Why do you do this work? “I enjoy the challenge of solving the puzzle of how and why someone became severely injured in the vehicle collision accident and then figuring out if it was preventable by safer designs. And then I also use the accumulated knowledge from many such cases to urge the government and the automakers to adopt safer vehicle designs that will help prevent needless injuries in the future.”

How did you get started in it? “In the mid-1960s — a long time ago! — I was inspired by the Senate hearings on auto safety by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and by the revelations of Ralph Nader in his book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed.’ I learned that car crash victims were called ‘plaintiffs’ in lawsuits that were based on whether or not their vehicle might be ‘defectively designed.’ And these cases needed someone with technical and design abilities to figure out the unsafe design at issue, and safer alternatives.”

What do you find most satisfying about what you do? Why? “I often meet the car crash victims, the quadriplegics or burn-injured, and when my work helps to secure some measure of justice for them and their families, it’s a good feeling to know the system works and their lives may be made a bit better.”

Have you had any major achievements in this field? What are the major milestones in your life/career? “I testified at a congressional hearing in 1991 on Automotive Safety: Are We Doing Enough to Protect America’s Families, which helped prompt safer underride guards on large tractor-trailers, to prevent cars from crashing beneath the trailers. Over the many years, I’ve fought for safer cars, for improvements like airbags, safer fuel tanks located forward of the rear axle, stronger roofs for protection in rollovers, truck underride guards … and then seeing the automakers finally adopt these safety improvements. I’m thankful to have received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Traffic Safety Symposium in 2001, though there’s still a long way to go.”

What do you enjoy about working in Potomac? “Potomac has so many bright and friendly people who care, a fine sense of community, a beautiful wooded ambiance, and a close and easy proximity to the vast resources of our nation’s capital. My family and I have enjoyed the 15 wonderful years here, having moved from the overcrowded Los Angeles area.”

Community ties/activities: “I recall the joys of helping at the schools, like being the Science Expo director at Bells Mill Elementary for five years, and working alongside my wife, Naomi, on the Churchill High School after-prom parties year after year, and serving as a Boy Scout troop leader, and coaching my kids’ basketball teams.”

Favorite restaurants: “Our favorite restaurants include Flaps, Tower Oaks Lodge, Chicken Out, Jade Billows, Silver Diner and Tastee Diner, The Old Ebbitt Grille in D.C., and lots more in Bethesda.”

Favorite activities: “My wife, Naomi, and I love to visit Great Falls, in all seasons. And we enjoy Glen Echo Park and its enchanting, historic carousel. We especially enjoy getting together with other couples, friends and cousins, for an upbeat evening of dinner and a movie at Bethesda Row Theaters.”

Favorite books, movies and hobbies: “I especially enjoy spirited movies with heart, from the older classic ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ to ‘Erin Brockovich’ to ‘Runaway Jury’…. and hundreds of others, from biographies to adventures to comedies to documentaries. Movies are a great art form that spreads entertainment and enlightenment, humor and pathos. And I love to read.”

Parting thoughts: “Potomac was a community we researched and specifically selected to be our home, to raise three children into adulthood, to enjoy an ethnically diverse and culturally enriched community, with great local schools (Bells Mill Elementary through Churchill High) and the wonderful University of Maryland, with the unmatched resources and opportunities of our nation’s capital nearby, of easy access by road and especially by train to the historic East Coast cities and towns. As each year goes by, we love it here even more.”