Changes in Vehicle Designs from Frontal Offset and Side Impact Crash Testing 2003-01-0902
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been conducting frontal offset crash tests of new passenger vehicles and providing comparative crashworthiness information to the public since 1995. This program has resulted in large improvements in frontal crashworthiness largely because vehicle structures have been redesigned to prevent significant collapse of the occupant compartment. In late 2002, IIHS began a side impact crash test program in which the side-impacting barrier has been designed to simulate the geometry of the front ends of SUVs and pickups, which pose a much larger threat in side impacts than the lower front ends of cars. It is anticipated that this program, too, will result in changes in vehicle structure, in this case the structure of the vehicle side pillars and door hardware. Good performance in the side impact test also is likely to require installation of side airbags (or comparable system) to protect the head and/or chest.
These improvements in vehicle crashworthiness for both frontal and side impacts will reduce incompatibility in motor vehicle crashes by improving self protection without adversely affecting the consequences for occupants of “partner” vehicles in two-vehicle crashes. Evidence for this is that the structural changes seen so far in response to the frontal offset test do not appear to be increasing vehicle aggressivity. Similarly, the vehicle changes expected in response to the side impact test procedure seem unlikely to have any effect on aggressivity in two-vehicle crashes.