Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute made its testing standards more rigorous, increasing the challenge for automakers to receive a five-star rating. Now the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is making a similar move with its “small overlap,” or “glancing blow,” crash test. Most of the cars tested, however, failed to make the grade.
Crash test replicates glancing blow
The new test involves ramming a car into a stationary barrier, off-center on the front of the vehicle, at 40 mph. According to the IIHA, nearly a quarter of all crashes that cause serious injuries or deaths result from glancing blows into poles or trees or other rigid objects. Crashes of this nature force the front wheel, suspension system and firewall toward the cab, which, according to the IIHS, can cause serious leg and foot injuries, or worse.
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Addressing Achilles’ Heel
Car and Driver suggests that most cars today are built to perform well under NHTSA testing. However, concentrating on front-end impacts has left 25 percent of a car’s front-end safety envelope, on either side, exposed as an Achilles’ Heel. That is what the new IIHS test seeks to address.
Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS, said:
“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… This new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility.”
Luxury models fail
The IIHS chose to begin its testing with luxury vehicles because they generally tout advanced safety features. But if safety is your concern, you may want to think twice about seeking out auto loan info for most premium models.
The results were not electrifying. Only three of the 11 models tested received a “good” or “acceptable” score.
For its first round, the IIHS chose to put the 2012 Acura TL, Acura TSX, Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Infiniti G, Lexus IS, Lexus ES350, Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Volkswagen CC, and the Volvo S60 to the test. Only the Acura TL, the Volvo S60, and the Infiniti G received scores of “good” or “acceptable.”
Fairing a little better when hitting poles at a great momentum: BMW 3 series, Accra TSX, Lincoln MKZ and the Volkswagen CC all rated “marginal.”
The Mercedes-Benz C-class, the Lexus IS and the Lexus ES350 all rated “poor.”
Although the IIHS serves the insurance industry, and conducts these tests ostensibly to lower injury claims, it does point out a weakness in the design of most premium consumer vehicles that can be addressed in future models to reduce injuries and deaths.
Traffic fatalities on the decline
Past efforts to increase safety on the highways have had a tremendous impact. For the first time since such records have been kept, auto crashes are not among the top ten causes of fatalities. It has now fallen to the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Tougher seat belt and DUI laws, among other safety measures, have reduced traffic fatalities by 25 percent since 2009, says the NHTSA. According to the IIHS, the number of fatal front-end collisions has dropped by more than half for cars three years old or newer in the past 11 years.
‘IIHS video: new type of crash test aims for safer vehicles’
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