The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US have continued to develop new metrics to help consumers tell which cars are really the safest. This comes as carmakers continue to improve their products, and the IIHS has announced the first results of its most recent effort last Tuesday.
Within the first few years of the IIHS introducing the offset crash test in the ’90s, Good ratings were becoming commonplace. Now it’s rare for vehicles to score worse than the best marks. A similar advancement was seen when the organisation introduced evaluations for side-impact crashes, protection for head-restraint whiplash and roof strength. And it’s assumed the same will happen with this newest frontal crash test, as the marks aren’t very pretty so far.
In the latest test, a car driving 40mph hour and crashing head first should have seen 25% of the front end (the side corner of the driver’s side) absorb the full force of the impact. However, NHTSA tests found that the force was spread throughout the whole front of the vehicle.
Out of the 11 premium sedans that the organisation has subjected to the new test – all of which are 2012 models – only two earned the top Good score. These were the Volvo S60 and Acura TL. The second-highest Acceptable ranking was given to the Infiniti G. The next to lowest score (Marginal) was handed to the BMW 3-Series, Acura TSX, Volkswagen CC and Lincoln MKZ. The Poor rating (the lowest) was earned by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus ES and IS, and Audi A4.
The top-rated cars were likely to keep motorists from serious injury in a head-on collision. However, the lower-rated vehicles trapped the feet of the crash dummies, their doors were ripped off and their airbags deployed too slowly. There could be progress to come soon though, as two of the lower-rated cars (Lexus ES and Lincoln MKZ) have been completely redesigned for next year’s model. Plus, Mercedes has planned to change the airbags in the current C-Class.
During the testing, the BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz’s seat belts released too much after the crash. This meant the test dummies hit hard surfaces, while the door of the Volkswagen was torn completely off. Mercedes-Benz, however, doesn’t agree with its ranking, pointing out that the C-Class is listed as one of the Top Safety Picks. This is because the crash test simulates an uncommon and unusually severe scenario.
However, Toyota (which owns Lexus) accepted the results of its test. The company said that the IIHS has raised the bar again, and they will respond to the challenge when they design new vehicles. It also noted that it has 17 Top Safety Picks, more than other car manufacturers.
Despite some poor rankings in the frontal crash test, all of the 11 vehicles earned top scores in the offset frontal crash test – an existing test. However, the Lexus and Infiniti cars were the only ones not included in the IIHS’s 2012 Top Safety Picks for overall frontal, side, rear and rollover protection. IIHS president Adrian Lund says the models that meet their current Top Safety Pick criteria still offer great protection in a majority of collisions.
However, the IIHS plans to change its Top Safety Picks criteria next year to integrate the new test. It developed the test after analysing real-world frontal crashes for a year. Over 10,000 people are killed in the US every year by these types of collisions.Author's Google+ page