New crash test aims to boost light vehicle safety

RSS

No doubt you probably heard the breathless general news reports earlier in the week about how only three out of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) earned only “good” or “acceptable” crash test ratings.

Indeed, FOUR of those 2012 model high-dollar luxury rides – the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 – earned “poor” ratings from the IIHS, which might make some buyers wonder what they’re getting for their money. (The average sticker price for a new 2012 Mercedes C-Class, for example, hovers around $43,000. Not cheap!)

However, before the hoity-toity set starts flinging their car keys back at their dealers, a word must be said in the defense of the OEMs cited above – for those crash ratings are the result of a new and as-yet not-required test, one that measures what happens in what the IIHS calls a “small overlap frontal crash.”

In this new crash test format, 25% of a car's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole – clipping said object in a glancing or “offset” manner.

Outside of some automakers' proving grounds, IIHS President Adrian Lund (seen below) noted such a test isn't currently conducted anywhere else in the U.S. or Europe for it’s not something required of OEMs by the various government regulatory agencies that oversee automobile safety.

"Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year,” Lund noted in a statement earlier this week.

“Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities [and] this new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better,” he explained. “We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection.”

Indeed, the IIHS plans to next assess midsize moderately priced cars, including such models as the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, with its small overlap frontal crash test.

[Want to see how truck makers crash test their products? Take a look at how Volvo does it over in Europe.]

Lund also pointed out that automakers have always been quick to rise to the occasion whenever IIHS added a new evaluation to its vehicle test program, and he expects the small overlap test should be no exception.

“Manufacturers recognize that this crash mode poses a significant risk to their customers and have indicated they plan structural and restraint changes to improve protection in small overlap frontal crashes,” Lund stressed.

He also noted that IIHS “picks on” luxury and near-luxury models first in such testing because they typically get advanced safety features sooner than other vehicles.

“Most modern cars have safety cages built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation – with crush zones helping manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment,” Lund said.

Yet the main “crush-zone” structures of light vehicles are concentrated in the middle 50% percent of the front end. Thus, when a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion so front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants, he pointed out.

Small overlap crashes, however, are a different story.

“These crashes primarily affect a car's outer edges, which aren't well protected by the crush-zone structures,” Lund explained. “Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, suspension system and firewall. It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries.”

Thus to provide effective protection in small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that aren't tempered by crush-zone structures. Widening these front-end structures also would help, he added.

"These are severe crashes, and our new test reflects that," Lund stressed. "Most automakers design their vehicles to ace our moderate overlap frontal test and NHTSA's [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] full-width frontal test, but the problem of small overlap crashes hasn't been addressed. We hope our new rating program will change that." 

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Sep 11, 2012

Nice info! This is an excellent post. After reading your post I know lots of information about car safety. I am really happy to get this info. Bcoz I am looking to buy a new car. This info is helping me a lot. Thanks for posting
Tampa Movers

on May 22, 2013

s There are true authentic item resource online internet directories which might be qualified by the bbb. With these online internet directories you will discover out not only by far the most amazing below common products resources i9300 phone, but you will discover out top strategy China suppliers common solution resources and decreased provide producers everywhere HUAWEI Ascend D2.

on Jun 17, 2013

It help me very much to solve some page problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy.

on Jun 18, 2013

Vehicle safety can avoid a lot of accidents so car manufacturing companies are focusing on crash test to see whether the car is able to tolerate the accident or not. Small overlap crashes are avoided sometimes but they can even cause fatal crashes. To provide protection safety cages are built that are strong.
Virginia personal injury attorney

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

Blog Archive

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×