The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New IIHS Crash Tests Demonstrate Influence of Vehicle Size on Safety

April 15, 2009

ARLINGTON, VA – Three new front-to-front crash tests, each involving a microcar or minicar colliding with a midsize model from the same manufacturer, show how extra vehicle size and weight enhance occupant protection in collisions, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said. 

These tests "are about the physics of car crashes, which dictate that very small cars generally can't protect people in crashes as well as bigger, heavier models," the IIHS concluded. 

The crash test results serve to underscore the potential conflict between two areas of public interest: efforts to clean up the planet and efforts to keep people safe on the highways. 

"There are good reasons people buy minicars," said Institute President Adrian Lund. "They're more affordable, and they use less gas. But the safety trade-offs are clear from our new tests. Equally clear are the implications when it comes to fuel economy. If automakers downsize cars so their fleets use less fuel, occupant safety will be compromised. However, there are ways to serve fuel economy and safety at the same time." 

The institute didn't choose SUVs or pickup trucks, or even large cars, to pair with the micro cars and minis in the new crash tests. The choice of midsize cars, the institute said, demonstrates how much influence some extra size and weight can have on crash outcomes. The institute chose pairs of 2009 models from Daimler, Honda and Toyota because "these automakers have micro and mini models that earn good frontal crashworthiness ratings, based on the institute's offset test into a deformable barrier," the group noted. 

IIHS researchers rated performance in the 40 mph car-to-car tests, like the group's front-into-barrier tests, based on measured intrusion into the occupant compartment, forces recorded on the driver dummy, and movement of the dummy during the impact.

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