In a new test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety mimicking a common crash condition overlooked by many car makers and safety experts less than 30 percent of the tested cars earned good or acceptable ratings. The new test is called the “small overlap frontal crash test.” It is different from older frontal crash tests, because only part of a car’s front end hits an obstruction in the new tests. Objects collide with the outside edges of the car, which are often not directly protected by a vehicle’s safety cage — a structure that safeguards the essential “survival space” in a vehicle, or the area that resists collapsing in a crash.
The IIHS says that these front-end overlap crash safety tests aren’t carried out elsewhere in the United States or Europe except in a handful of automaker tests. The fact that this kind of test isn’t more common is alarming, especially when small overlap front-end accidents make up almost 25 percent of all frontal crashes that result in a death or serious injury, says the IIHS. Front-end crashes account for more than 10,000 deaths each year, the IIHS says.
The IIHS says the new test is designed to follow what happens when an auto strikes another object like a tree, pole or even another auto at around 40 mph. In these types of crashes, experts say, crash energy isn’t sent to a vehicle’s safety cage or “crush zone,” which is designed to keep a vehicle from collapsing on passengers in a crash. In these overlap crashes, energy is instead sent directly to a vehicle’s front wheel, suspension system or firewall. Alarmingly, testers say they saw examples of serious “intrusions” by wheels and other parts of the car into vehicle cabins. They also saw cases where a test dummy was knocked around so much that it missed the airbag and struck other parts of the vehicle, which would cause serious injury or possibly death in a real-world crash.
Importantly, the new IIHS test has looked only at mid-size luxury or “near” luxury cars. Testers say they’ll be looking next at moderately priced cars like popular Ford, Honda and Toyota models.
South Carolina drivers should be aware of this dangerous front-end crash safety gap, and drivers may want to take steps to find out whether their automaker has tested for this sort of accident. Unfortunately, many South Carolina drivers may find out the hard way whether their vehicle can protect them and their passengers in an overlap front-end crashe.
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When a product is put on the market, we expect it to comply with safety standards. We certainly expect the manufacturer or seller to take precautions to protect us from any unnecessary harm. Our expectations are even higher when the product is a vehicle that weighs a ton or more and is capable of high speeds..
Unfortunately, the cars we rely on in our daily lives are sometimes released into the marketplace with faulty parts or defective designs. Those defects can lead to catastrophic injuries and fatal accidents on South Carolina’s roads and highways.