Adrian Lund, IIHS: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is launching a new crash test to improve protection for people in serious frontal crashes. Since 1978 has conducted a full-width, frontal crash test into a rigid barrier.
Since 1995, the IIHS has conducted a moderate overlap frontal crash test into a formidable barrier. This new small overlap crash test replicates what happens when only a small portion of a vehicle’s front end strikes another vehicle or an object like a pole or a tree.
The key crash-absorbing structure in vehicles is located here in the middle of the front end. People are vulnerable in small overlap crashes because these structures are bypassed and the crash forces can go directly into the occupant compartment.
One of the top performers in our test was the Volvo S-60. Volvo engineers designed the S-60 to do well in small overlap crashes. We’ve taken the fender off this other S-60 to show you one of the things they did. You can see this upper frame rail that we’ve painted yellow, has been tied back into the stiffer structure in the middle of the vehicle. In addition, Volvo beefed up the point of the occupant compartment where this rail attaches. They also added a steel cross member to further strengthen the occupant compartment.
Drivers’ heads and chests are particularly at risk in small overlap crashes because the steering wheel and driver air bag can sometimes move out of position. In this Lincoln MKZ the dummy’s head didn’t even touch the airbag.
In addition, head injury risk is increased if the side curtain doesn’t deploy, or it deploys but doesn’t come far enough forward to protect the head from hitting hard structure.
The Lexus IS was one of the worst performers in this test. The front pillar pushed in towards the driver; the front wheel pushed into the occupant compartment; and the foot well collapsed, trapping the dummy’s feet.
The first key to crash worthy vehicles is to keep the key occupant compartment intact. If you pack a fragile item in a strong box it’s more likely to arrive at it’s destination without breaking.