side impact

SAFETY: Do The New Safety Technologies Really Work?

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You’re darned tootin’ automotive technology advances make us safer: here’s proof.

IIHS side protection by model year

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began testing U.S. vehicles for side-impact crashworthiness in 2003.  As soon as the Institute began to publish its findings and recommendations, automakers began to redesign their vehicles to make them safer in side impact crashes.

In 2003, only about 7% of vehicles had “Good” side impact protection.  Fully 75% scored “Poor.”  By 2015, 97% of U.S. vehicles tested scored “Good.”  Finding a vehicle that scores “Poor” is now almost impossible.

FCP graph IIHS jpeg

IIHS also recently completed a study designed to see if forward crash prevention systems with automatic emergency braking was proving to be effective in the real world.

The Institute used models that had the technology as an option as the study group and the exact same models that were not equipped with the option as the control group.  As you can see in the graph, the technology reduced rear-end crashes with injuries by more than 40%.  For more on that study, see our feature story on forward collision prevention.


IIHS small frontal overlapp by model year

Although the tests IIHS conducts are good predictors of the results of a crash, how do older vehicles compare in the real world as safety progresses?

One way to look at the effect is to look at the driver death rate of cars past and present.  For example, the driver death rate of the mid-size Nissan Maxima was 49 per million registered vehicle years in 1997, but had dropped to just 28 by 2009.  Full-size large SUVs also saw improvements.  The 1997 Ford Expedition had a rate of 39, but that had dropped to just 5 by 2011.

Technology advances continue to make our vehicles safer.  One key ingredient is testing and reporting of the results to put positive pressure on automakers to continue the efforts.

Did you know you can search on for cars via specific safety features? Here’s a search on cars with knee air bags for the driver – just plug in your location to find those vehicles near you.

John Goreham

John Goreham