The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is using a new safety test to study a specific type of frontal car crash.

In the institute’s standard frontal crash test, which is now being referred to as a moderate overlap frontal test, 40 percent of a car’s front end (i.e., along the front bumper) on the driver’s side strikes a deformable barrier to determine how the vehicle handles the impact.

By comparison, the new test, called a small overlap frontal test, focuses on the far left 25 percent of the front end of the car—essentially the left corner of the vehicle in front of the driver’s seat. And in this test, the object the car crashes into is a rigid barrier that won’t give.

The test is meant to simulate a small overlap crash, a type of accident that commonly occurs on two-lane roads where there is two-way traffic and no center median. A small overlap crash can also occur in single-vehicle accident when the car hits an object such as tree or a pole. In fact, this type of single-vehicle accident accounts for an estimated 40 percent of all small overlap crashes.

The point of the new test is to assess what happens to a vehicle in a small overlap crash and how the driver is affected. For example, do the side-impact airbags deploy? If not, points are deducted from the vehicle’s overall safety score. If the door opens upon impact or seat attachments don’t hold up, the vehicle’s score is downgraded to “poor.”

One reason the small overlap test is more demanding on vehicles than the moderate frontal test is that in a small overlap crash, the impact frequently does not engage the vehicle’s crush-zone structures, which are concentrated in the middle half of the vehicle’s front end. These structures are designed to absorb the force of the crash and prevent other parts of the car (such as the wheels or windshield posts) from intruding into the passenger compartment during the crash.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin, there’s a greater incidence of head, chest, spine, hip, and pelvis injuries in small overlap crashes than in crashes where more of the front end of the vehicle is involved.

Regardless of where the point of impact is or how much of the vehicle is involved, Virginia auto accidents are traumatic. With new safety tests and features designed to protect drivers and passengers, automakers continue to work toward reducing serious injuries and fatalities in collisions. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid these outcomes entirely.

If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a Virginia car wreck, the attorneys at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas can help you navigate this challenging situation. Contact our office nearest you today to schedule a free consultation.

Richard A. Dulaney
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Richard has over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.

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