Modern cars are designed to provide maximum crash protection for passengers. However, even the safest car to-date has room to improve upon its safety performance in the event of a motor vehicle accident.
In an effort to make cars even safer than they already are, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has created a new kind of crash test. This overrun or overlapping frontal crash test addresses the reality that most head-on collisions are not direct in nature. Meaning, one does not usually run straight into another car's bumper or straight into a wall. Rather, when a driver senses danger, he or she usually swerves to avoid a collision and impact thus occurs at only a portion of the car's frontal structure.
Overlapping accidents are the cause of a quarter of all front-end accidents, which often result in fatality. Unfortunately, most car models are not designed to protect the driver in these types of accidents. In a small, overlapping accident, where only a quarter of the car's front is damaged, the impact of the collision is so strong that the absorbing structure in the middle is bypassed, causing wheels, windshield pillars, dash and door structure to be pushed into the driver's section.
In head-on collisions, impact is dispersed across the entire front-end safety cage of the vehicle. Cars are especially designed to absorb the impact in the center of the vehicle and not the corners. This disparity is what makes overlapping crashes so dangerous.
The IIHS's new overlapping crash test brings much-needed attention to the safety deficiencies in current passenger vehicle models. Hopefully, car manufacturers will adjust their structures according to the determinations released by the IIHS on this issue.
Source: ABC News, "Partial collisions prove more dangerous in new crash test," Jim Avila, Aug. 14, 2012