In our next Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing installment,
we take a closer look at frontal crash testing performed at the Vehicle
Research Center. Frontal crashes are the most common type of crash that
results in serious injury or death. Most of these crashes don’t
happen head on where both vehicles are lined up, rather there’s
some amount of offset between the vehicles.
The IIHS performs two frontal tests to help evaluate how well a vehicle
might protect occupants in these types of frontal crashes. In the moderate
overlap frontal crash, a vehicle strikes a barrier at 40 MPH with 40%
of the vehicle’s front end width lining up with the barrier. A section
of the barrier is made out of aluminum honey comb that crushes like a
real car would in a crash. This section is mounted to a larger barrier
that is composed of 320,000 pounds of steel and reinforced concrete. The
second type of crash is called a small overlap crash. A vehicle is accelerated
down a track into a barrier at 40 MPH, with only 25% of the front end
of the car lined up with the edge of the barrier. This barrier is rigid
and has a radius of about 6 inches. This represents what happens when
one vehicle hits another in that small overlap, or when a vehicle hits
a tree, poll, or post.
Three criteria are used at the VRC to evaluate frontal crashes. The first
is how well the safety cage held up and protected the occupant from intrusion
and injuries related to the forces of the crash. The second is measured
from the dummy itself on the risk of injury in the crash. The third is
how well the restraint system (seatbelts and airbags) work to protect
the occupant and keep the occupant away from any injurious impacts.
When assessing vehicle structure performance in frontal crash tests, the
IIHS looks at the amount of deformation or intrusion at a series of locations
inside the occupant compartment. It’s important for vehicles to
minimize this deformation because as those structures come back towards
the occupant, it is much more likely to cause injury. The IIHS provides a
video showing poor performance. In this example, the wheel was pushed rearward into the lower part of
the occupant compartment, causing a lot of intrusion into the foot well.
The pillar, instrument panel, and steering wheel were also pushed rearward
and inboard. This increases injury risk to the occupant.
Crash test dummies used in these frontal crash tests have sensors in the head, neck, chest,
upper leg, lower leg, and foot that all measure risk of injuries. In moderate
overlap crashes today, dummy injury measures tend to be low for all body
regions. This is because vehicles are designed for this crash mode and
restraint systems properly protect occupants from injury. In small overlap
crashes, some vehicles do a good job of protecting the occupant inside.
In other vehicles, it is more common to see high risk of injury. This
is because many vehicle manufacturers have not designed for this crash mode yet.
Like all other tests and performance standards conducted by the IIHS, frontal
crash testing is in place to provide safer vehicles to the general public.
By providing higher safety scores to deserving vehicle models, the IIHS
is holding manufacturers with less safe vehicles accountable in the eyes
of consumers. As Marietta auto accident attorneys, Andrew Jones and Chase
Swanson witness the results of serious car accidents often. For this reason,
Jones & Swanson supports all IIHS testing and urges readers to consider
testing scores before purchasing a vehicle.