Ryan Esligar

Ryan Esligar is a member of the Collision Investigation Team at the University of New Brunswick. (CBC)

A team of researchers at the University of New Brunswick are delving into how well safety measures in vehicles function during a crash, work that can help save lives.

Engineers Ryan Esligar and Dan Martin do field work with the Collision Investigation Team. Everything they learn, minus identifying information, is sent to Transport Canada, which is looking for ways of improving vehicle safety.

One recent vehicle they looked at was a pickup truck. It was likely in a front end crash and then rolled onto its roof.

“We're just looking to see if there is any occupants' loading evidence; blood, hair, anything,” Esligar said.

And the work can save lives.

In one case they found an airbag that didn’t deploy during a crash, but should have. They told the manufacturer and that prompted a recall.

The two investigate around 40 vehicles a year and look at safety defects. They are part of one of seven collision teams in Canada.

Just about every car that is 10 years old or less, has an event data recorder. Although it records much less than an airplane's little black box, it can add to the picture, according to Esligar.

“It could have vehicle speed, brake, accelerator; it can say whether or not the driver was hitting the brake pedal or the accelerator before the crash,” he said.  

“And there's also data on airbag deployment timings and that sort of thing.”