Obituary: Rune Andréasson, B.Sc., M.D. Hc (1920-2013)

With great sadness we learn of the death of Rune Andréasson on January 4, 2013, in Halmstad, Sweden, just short of his 93rd birthday. Rune Andréasson made extraordinary contributions to traffic medicine. In addition to many important scientific papers in English and in Swedish, he authored two major books. First, Widmark’s Micromethod and Swedish Legislation on Alcohol and Traffic (1986), which traces the development from 1922 of a chemical technique to measure the amount of alcohol in blood samples. This played a crucial role in the evolution of per se legislation in Sweden, inspiring comparable legislation in many other countries. Second, The Seat Belt:Swedish Research and Development for Global Automotive Safety (with C-G Bäckström, 2000). This book documents that the three point safety belt was first patented and developed in the USA, but first installed in vehicles in Sweden.

We at ITMA particularly mourn the passing of Rune Andréasson because he, more than anyone else, was responsible for the successful beginnings of IAATM (The International Association for Accident and Traffic Medicine), the organization that later became ITMA. IAATM was founded in San Remo, Italy, in December 1960 and had its first World Congress in Rome in 1963. Rune was a founding member and worked energetically to make the organization a success. He held numerous positions on the Board, including Member of the Congress Planning Committee (1963-6), Member of Executive Council (1966-9), Secretary General (1969-75), Executive Director (1975-83), President (1983-5), and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Traffic Medicine (1973-83). Rune (with others) created the distinctive and informative logo of IAATM. This consisted of a caduceus (snake) symbolizing Medicine, a traffic signal symbolizing Traffic, and a globe symbolizing International, three components that are preserved in ITMA’s current logo. IAATM faced a crisis in the 1990s when the president died suddenly, leading to the permanent loss of the organization’s files in a computer in Helsinki. When the temporary president planned to resign and nobody would volunteer for his position, IAATM seemed doomed. However, as a much respected elder statesman, Rune stepped in, and asked me if I would become President. I was extremely reluctant, but Rune was even more persuasive, so that at the May 2000 World Congress in Stockholm I became President. At that same meeting Rune gave his last presentation to the organization he was so instrumental in building. His topic was Traffic Medicine in the Rear View Mirror. How appropriate that this uniquely involved person should offer a retrospective on traffic medicine since the founding of IAATM and even earlier.

Rune Andréasson was a rare breed – one of a kind. His charm, wisdom, energy, and knowledge will be sorely missed by all of us who benefited from knowing him.

Leonard Evans

President Emeritus, ITMA