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New tougher crash test replicates real-world crashes



PITTSBURGH - A new crash test could lead to safer vehicles, but right now most cars are flunking.  The test focuses of a different kind of front-end crashes.  Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor takes a look at this tough new standard.

Nearly every new car does really well in standard frontal crash tests, but in the real world, people are still dying, so the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety upped the ante, designing a new test that replicates what's happening on the roads.

Instead of colliding head-on, in the new test the driver's side of the vehicle strikes a barrier at 40 mph.  It's what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole.

"Even though vehicles are much safer than they used to be, 10,000 people still die each year in frontal crashes," said Adrian Lund, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Frontal crashes, in the real world, often lead to serious injuries or even death, and that's why the Insurance Institute designed what’s called the small overlap test.  Using crash test dummies, they can determine how people are hurt and what can be done to protect them.

"They key crash absorbing structure in vehicles is located here in the middle of the front end.  People are vulnerable in small overlap crashes because these structures are bypassed and the crash forces can go directly into the occupant compartment," said Lund.

The first tests were done on luxury vehicles because they usually get the latest safety features before other cars. 

The Acura TL and the Volvo S60 were the only two vehicles to earn good ratings, while the Infinity G earned an acceptable rating.

"Driver's heads and chests are particularly at risk in small overlap crashes, because the steering wheel and the driver airbag can sometimes move out of position.  In this Lincoln MKZ, the dummy's head didn't even touch the airbag," said Lund.

There were 11 midsize cars tested.  Click here to see the ratings.   

Top-selling models, like the Ford Fusion, the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, will be tested next.