FW: [FactoryRiders] Harry Hurt dies at 81; motorcycle accident expert

Thomas J. Fitzpatrick III celticracing at comcast.net
Wed Dec 2 16:07:06 PST 2009


 

 

 

  

latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-harry-hurt2-2009dec02,0,1034954.story

latimes.com
OBITUARY
Harry Hurt dies at 81; motorcycle accident expert

His groundbreaking research published in 1981 continues to form the
basis of many of the country's motorcycle safety programs and is
credited with saving countless lives.
By Susan Carpenter

December 2, 2009

Harry Hurt, one of the world's foremost authorities on motorcycle
crashes and their causes, has died. He was 81.

Hurt suffered a heart attack Sunday at Pomona Valley Hospital. It was a
complication of back surgery that he had a week earlier, said his
eldest
son, Harry Hurt III.

Hurt was the principal investigator of the Hurt Report, an in-depth,
on-scene investigation of 900 motorcycle accidents in Los Angeles from
1976 to 1977.

Published in 1981, his groundbreaking research continues to form the
basis of many of the country's motorcycle safety programs and is
credited with saving countless lives.

Hurt was a professor of safety science at USC's Traffic Safety Center
in
the early 1970s, when roughly 10% of U.S. highway traffic fatalities
were because of motorcycle accidents.

In 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached out
to Hurt and the university to develop an accident investigation
methodology and study that would determine the causes of motorcycle
crashes and injuries.

Among the study's major findings were that speed was not a factor in
most crashes; that helmets were very effective in preventing brain
injuries and deaths; and that two-thirds of motorcycle crashes involved
cars and two-thirds of those accidents occurred when a car driver
failed
to see the motorcycle and violated the cyclist's right of way.

"Harry was the acknowledged giant in motorcycle accident research,"
said
Jim Ouellet, one of the accident investigators for the Motorcycle
Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures study,
better known as the Hurt Report.

"Similar studies since 1990 reflect his influence and have largely
confirmed his findings. He was a bulldog at finding the facts and
making
them public even if some people were unhappy when the facts he reported
didn't support their pet theories."

Hurt was a lifelong motorcyclist and never had a crash, said his wife,
Joan.

He rode "a garage full of things: Hondas, Triumphs, Nortons, dirt
bikes,
street bikes -- all kinds of stuff," his son said, including a Suzuki
trail bike he used to walk his pet, "Gurl Dawg," as recently as a
decade
ago, when he gave up motorcycles because he was no longer physically
able to ride.

The only child of a banker, Hugh Harrison (Harry) Hurt Jr. was born
Dec.
13, 1927, in Big Spring, Texas, where he grew up building and flying
model airplanes.

Hurt joined the Navy toward the end of World War II, learned to fly and
became a commissioned officer, but the war was over, so he never flew
in
combat.

He met his wife, Joan Beene, while serving in the Navy. They were
married in 1950, the same year he graduated from the Agriculture and
Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University), where he earned
his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering.

After a short stint analyzing airplane designs for the Texas aero
physics lab North American Aviation, he moved west to attend USC and
earned his master's degree in aeronautical engineering.

As a graduate student, Hurt was involved with a project to develop a
crash helmet that forms the basis for helmets used today: a hard
exterior shell lined with an energy-absorbing material and soft inner
padding.

Hurt's expertise in vehicular safety began with aviation. He wrote
"Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators," a flight-training textbook that
continues to be standard reading for aviators and is still in print, 44
years after its initial publication.

It was after joining the USC faculty and heading the engineering
section
of its safety division that Hurt branched into motor vehicle safety
research, developing and teaching courses in accident
investigation/analysis and accident reconstruction.

Although he is best known for the Hurt Report, his more recent work
included a large-scale motorcycle accident causation study in Thailand.
Hurt supervised it through his Head Protection Research Laboratory in
Paramount, a nonprofit organization he established to evaluate helmets
and other forms of head protection equipment after he retired from USC
as a professor emeritus.

"I don't think [Hurt's] contributions to motorcycle safety can be
overstated," said Art Friedman, former editor of Motorcyclist magazine,
who in 1990 wrote a column naming Hurt as "Motorcyclist of the Decade."

"Our readers, not surprisingly, had chosen multiple-time World and
National Champion Kenny Roberts, but my choice was Harry," Friedman
said. "After all, Roberts had thrilled us, but Harry Hurt had helped
save many of our lives and limbs and continues to do so."

In addition to his wife and son Harry, Hurt also survived by another
son, John; three daughters, Julie, Vivien and Vera; and 10
grandchildren.

A remembrance will be held at the Paramount lab in January.

susan.carpenter

@latimes.com

Copyright C 2009, The Los Angeles Times

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