The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test ratings are designed to highlight the vehicle’s structural integrity, as well as restraint performance.
One test simulates two cars of the same weight and type crashed head-on, partially overlapping the portion straight ahead of the driver . The other test engages like a head-on crash. Both the front-crash scenarios use an impact speed of 40 mph. One effect of the small-overlap test is that the vehicle tends to rotate around the point of impact as the crash proceeds. Occupants then move to the side as well as forwards, posing new challenges to some safety-belt and air-bag systems. Even though this is a frontal crash, the side-impact air bags may need to deploy as well.
Both the frontal tests are stringent because the speed is high and the crash energy is concentrated on a smaller area. In both, an instrument-equipped crash dummy in the driver’s seat records forces to the head and neck, chest, legs, and feet. Vehicles are rated as Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor based on what happens to vehicle structure, as well as forces on the dummies.
The side-impact test uses a heavy striking barrier at 3,300 pounds. The barrier strikes high up on the vehicle to simulate a car being hit on the side at 90 degrees by a typical-height SUV or truck. The test bases its scores on head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and leg injury.
The two dummies in the side-crash test represent a small adult female or a 12-year-old adolescent. One is the driver, the other a left-rear passenger. Other crash tests use a dummy that simulates an average-sized adult male. See videos of how cars perform in front and side crash tests.
Not many rear-impact crashes are fatal. But they do cause many injuries, especially whiplash trauma to the neck. The IIHS evaluates rear impacts with physical inspections and crash testing. The crash test simulates a rear-end crash about equivalent to a stationary vehicle being struck at 20 mph by a vehicle of the same weight.
Rear-impact protection is head-restraint design. Restraints need to be high enough and positioned close enough to the back of the head to cradle an occupant’s head in a rear collision. Those restraints that are clearly too low or ill-designed automatically receive a Poor rating from IIHS, while those with a chance of providing decent protection are crash-tested.
To see how your car rates click here: Crash Test Ratings.
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