Understanding Side-Impact Crash Tests Huntington NY

Though front-impact collisions carry the greatest risk of injury to vehicle occupants, side impacts also involve a high risk for injury. Therefore, side-impact crash-test ratings are an important factor when choosing an automobile.

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Understanding Side-Impact Crash Tests

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Though front-impact collisions carry the greatest risk of injury to vehicle occupants, side impacts also involve a high risk for injury. Therefore, side-impact crash-test ratings are an important factor when choosing an automobile. While the side-impact tests from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, www.safercar.gov) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, www.hwysafety.org) simulate a collision that might occur in an intersection, the tests are conducted differently by each organization and thus the results often vary. While ratings from both groups are valuable, each test is a separate measure of various safety factors of the vehicle you might be considering.

The NHTSA test
NHTSA uses two crash-test dummies that represent average-sized men, what the industry calls a "50 percentile male," meaning that roughly half the adult male population is bigger and half is smaller. These dummies are 5 feet 7 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. One dummy is placed in the driver's seat, while the other is seated in the rear of the vehicle, directly behind the driver. A 3,015-lb. barrier on a sled is then slammed into the driver's side of the vehicle at 38.5 mph.

The force of the impact on the dummy's head, neck, chest, and pelvis is measured, but the publicly-released star ratings indicate only the chance of serious injury to the chest. Head injuries, which are not factored into the star rating, are reported separately as (what NHTSA calls) a "safety concern" if the head injury score is considered excessive. NHTSA's star ratings range from one star (26 percent or greater chance of serious injury) to five stars (5 percent or less chance of serious injury). ...

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