Many people have opted to downsize their personal or family vehicles in an effort to save money on fuel bills and decrease their monthly car payments. But now, after the release of the crashworthiness evaluations, those same people are wondering if they’ve traded their safety and the safety of their families for economy. Particularly in Atlanta, where there are approximately 1700 car accidents a day.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (“IIHS”) is an independent, nonprofit organization funded primarily by auto insurers and insurance associations and dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage as a result of vehicle crashes. In 2012, the IIHS introduced the small overlap frontal crash test. This test simulates a collision wherein a front corner of the vehicle traveling at 40 mph, strikes another vehicle or an object, such as a utility pole.

This test is more difficult than both the head-on collision testing long performed by the government and the moderate overlap test performed by the IIHS. The difficulty is created because the impact of the collision bypasses most of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone. This prevents the vehicle from absorbing the crash energy before it reaches the occupant compartment and as a result, causes the collapse of the occupant compartment.

The structure and restraints (safety belts and airbags) of a vehicle are the fundamental elements of occupant protection. Good vehicle structure translates into a) a strong occupant compartment; b) crush zones which absorb the crash energy; c) side structure that can handle the force of a striking vehicle or object; and d) a strong roof structure that doesn’t collapse in a rollover. When the structure of your vehicle collapses in a collision, the risk of injury to the occupants is high.

While eleven minicars were tested by the IIHS, only one received an acceptable rating for structure leaving the remaining ten with only marginal or poor ratings for structure. Only marginal or poor ratings were earned by all eleven vehicles for restraints and kinematics (motion). Seven of the tested vehicles allowed too much forward motion of the occupant in a collision, indicating that the seat belt was not sufficient to hold the occupant in place or the occupant’s head missed or slid off of the front airbag. In eight of the minicars the side curtain airbags, which play a vital role in small overlap frontal crashes, were not sufficient and the side curtain airbag in one vehicle failed to deploy.

Complete minicar crash worthiness evaluations and ratings can be reviewed at www.iihs.org. When you purchase any vehicle, be informed.

In the event of an accident, seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. At the Rice Firm, we are always available to assist and guide you through obtaining a reasonable settlement.