Updated – September 2018

The Santos Family Foundation is dedicated to the memory of Robin Santos and her three children, Cristina, Paul Christopher and Peter Santos. All four died in an automobile collision in New Hampshire in 1990. Paul Santos, Jr., Robin’s husband and the father of the three children, survived the collision. In 1999, Paul and his family created the Santos Family Foundation.

The Foundation focuses on improving automobile safety, particularly the crash-worthiness of passenger vehicles. Following are the principal projects funded by the Foundation:

Roof strength standards

After examining the efforts of numerous private and public organizations in the field of automobile safety, the Foundation’s first grant funded a three-year, $400,000 effort, by the National Crash Analysis Center of the George Washington University to devise an improved roof crush standard for the automobile industry.

In connection with this same objective, the Foundation granted $75,000 to the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) to work with the Center for Injury Research. The purpose of this grant was to determine the practicability of a stronger roof crush standard to reduce both direct injuries from roof intrusion and injuries from ejection through side windows. This research utilized the Jordan Rollover System (JRS) and determined that the Volvo XC90 provides rollover occupant protection through superior roof strength and other safety features. The Foundation provided an additional $210,500 in grants to CAS: 1. to determine the repeatability of JRS; and 2. to compare the results of JRS testing with the results of static testing by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In April, 2009, NHTSA did issue a new roof strength standard. The phase-in of the new standard began in 2012, and all passenger vehicles were required to meet the new standard by 2015.

Archive of Auto Safety information

In order to provide the public with easily accessible information on auto safety, the Foundation has funded the creation of a website which provides current auto hazards information and a comprehensive collection of motor vehicle hazards documents. For this purpose, the Foundation granted the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) of Boston, Massachusetts, $275,000 to create this website. Further information on this project may be found at:


For the same purpose, the Foundation has provided $15,000 grant to the Automotive Safety Institute at George Washington University to create publicly available library of landmark auto safety information accumulated by key NHSTA policymakers over the years.

Heavy Truck Braking

A $20,000 grant to Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) is supporting the development of a new federal standard which will require that heavy trucks be equipped with an autonomous emergency braking system. Such a system automatically decelerates a large truck and mitigates or prevents collisions in the truck’s path in the absence of proper driver response. On October 16, 2015, NHTSA granted petition for rulemaking to establish a safety standard to require automatic forward collision and mitigation systems on certain heavy vehicles.


Jeep Grand Cherokee Recall

A $10,000 Foundation grant to the Automotive Safety Research Institute (ASRI) funded a crash test of a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s fuel system. The results of the crash test were submitted to NHTSA for consideration in its safety defect investigation of the fuel system in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. As a result of this investigation, NHTSA did recall about 1.6 million Jeeps in June, 2013

Driver Attention and Distraction

Over the past five years, the Foundation has committed $490,000 to the MIT AgeLab. The initial $100,000 grant funded research on the safety implications of in-vehicle technologies, intelligent vehicle applications and the impact of health on drivers’ behaviors. These funds were matched by the US Department of Transportation, thus doubling the resources available for this work. The findings of this work were presented at a November 15, 2010 conference in Cambridge, MA

A second $100,000 grant to the AgeLab, which also was matched by funds from the US Department of Transportation, funded empirical research on the impact of pacing on driver workload demand. A third $100,000 committment, also matched by DOT funds, is supporting the AgeLab’s assessment of the cognitive demand associated with typical and “expert” in-vehicle voice-based interactions while driving.

Because these AgeLab studies highlight a range of driver distractions, the Foundation has committed an additional $100,000 to determine, from existing data at MIT and at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, whether head position of an automobile driver is a good enough surrogate/estimator of whether the driver’s eyes are off the road and whether technology can be used to detect a driver’s extended look off the road. In short, this grant allowed the AgeLab to analyze the feasibility of a head-based distraction detection system. The Foundation is hopeful that the AgeLab’s work will promote a better understanding by government, car manufactures and the driving public of the impact on driver workload of in-vehicle technologies and the potential for technology to address the problem.

As a result of AgeLab research that indicates that driver gaze can be detected with great accuracy in a range of situations using an in-vehicle camera, the Foundation committed additional funds for the AgeLab to develop a real-time prototype algorithm for driver gaze classification through an in-vehicle camera. With the help of an additional $65,000 from the Foundation, MIT has developed open source software that accurately, and in real time, detects a driver’s focus on and off the road, and is capable of alerting the driver to dangerous levels of distraction. A YouTube video demonstrating this software at work may be found at:

This software is now being incorporated into aftermarket products that will allow drivers to add this technology to vehicles already in use.


The Foundation is hopeful that this technology will be included in newly manufactured vehicles.

Further information on the work of the AgeLab may be found at:


A complementary project is being funded through a $25,000 grant to MIT’s AgeLab to create a publicly available means of evaluating both the projected and demonstrated safety benefit of in- vehicle technologies. The initial work on this rating system was funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and the Santos Foundation grant is intended to allow this work to be completed.

Olin College of Engineering

With a grant intended to both promote auto safety and student engagement in those issues, the Foundation made a $210,000 grant, over a three-year period, to fund student/faculty teams in Olin’s Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (SCOPE) in an effort to explore innovative approaches to improved automobile safety.

Further information on the SCOPE work funded by the Santos Family Foundation may be found at:


Kia and Hyunday fires

Most recently, at the request of CAS’s Vehicle Safety Project, the Foundation made a grant of $25,000 to conduct an analysis of Kia and Hyundai models involved in repeated fire incidents. The Foundation anticipates that CAS will make the results of this analysis to NHTSA and the public.

Foundation Contact

The Foundation does not invite submissions from the public. Rather, the Foundation prefers to identify specific automobile safety issues and then work with experts who are able to address those issues.

For further information on the Foundation’s grant goals and funding, please contact:

Leonard E. Santos
Executive Director
Santos Family Foundation
4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd., #423
Portland, OR 97214.

E-mail lensant@gmail.com
Telephone (971) 202-3175
Fax (971) 255-0351

The following reports, funded, at least in part, by the Foundation, are available for viewing online using Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded from the Adobe Web site free of charge.