Sunderland University has been honoured for its vital role in helping to introduce changes in car safety legislation that have saved tens of thousands of lives across Europe.
Former North East MEP Alan Donnelly received the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) award in July for his work on car safety standards legislation, which have since become the global standard on crash testing.
Alan, an Honorary Fellow of the University of Sunderland, formally presented his award to the university in a ceremony at the National Glass Centre yesterday, to mark the contribution it had made to helping his draft legislation become law.
He had drawn up changes to the rules on car safety to provide passengers with increased protection from side impacts by strengthening car door frames, but was struggling to get them past the civil servants.
“At that time, all the strength in the door frame was in the sill, but that was no use,” said Alan.
“The car industry were upset about the legislation, which they said would increase the cost of vehicles.
Twenty years on, it has saved lives across Europe and India and Brazil are about to introduce the same standards.Alan Donnelly
“So I had a word with the University of Sunderland.”
The university invited European Commission vice-president Martin Bangemann to Wearside, giving Alan a chance to pitch his case and providing him with research to back it up.
Alan said: “They gave him an honorary doctorate and invited him to Sunderland.
“He came to make a speech and while he was here, we were able to sit him down and show him how important the changes were that I was proposing to the legislation.
“Then he went back to Brussels, instructed his civil servants that he had changed his mind and told them to enact the amendments.”
The legislation is estimated to have saved 40,000 lives in Europe and has formed the basis for the world standard on car safety.
Alan added: “Twenty years on, it has saved lives across Europe and India, and Brazil are about to introduce the same standards.”
Yesterday’s presentation also honours the work the university continues to do into car safety, with its research into the super-light material Graphene, which could form the basis for the next generation of vehicles – allowing cars to be lighter and greener, without compromising safety.
Guests included David Ward, Global NCAP’s Secretary General and Sunderland University’s Professor Alan Wheatley.