The Truth About Cars » IIHS The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » IIHS Chevy Spark Only Minicar to Pass IIHS Small-Overlap Crash Test Thu, 23 Jan 2014 13:00:24 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested a dozen of the smallest cars on American roads with the rigorous new small-overlap crash test and according to Automotive Newsall but the Chevrolet Spark performed poorly in the test. The small-overlap test is supposed to recreate collisions when the front corner of one vehicle strikes an immobile object or another vehicle. The test is performed with the driver’s side of the vehicle’s front end hitting a barrier at 40 MPH. It is considered a more stringent test because the front crush zone is missed and much of the crash energy is directed in to the passenger compartment, sometimes causing it to collapse.

To earn the IIHS’ “top safety pick” award, the institute is now requiring vehicles to perform well on the offset test. Because of that change, a number of former top safety picks were dropped from that ranking.

The IIHS tested the Spark, Mazda2, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, 2014 Ford Fiesta, 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa, Toyota Prius C, Hyundai Accent, Fiat 500 and Honda Fit. The worst results were from the Honda Fit and the Fiat 500 with both of those cars’ passenger compartments being “seriously compromise[d]” by structures intruding into the safety cell. The Fiat 500′s driver side door was torn off of it’s hinges during the test, raising the possibility of people getting ejected from the car in the event of a serious collision. Though the Chevy Spark’s structure did intrude into the passenger compartment, that intrusion was limited to the upper parts of the passenger cell and the vehicle earned good injury measurements for all body regions of the crash dummies.

Most of the injuries recorded by the crash test dummies involved the driver’s left leg. However, in the Fiat 500, the Honda Fit and the Hyundai Accent there were also injuries higher up on the driver’s leg, with the left thigh or hip being affected. In the Fit and 500, there was also an increase risk of injury to the driver’s right leg as well.

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Generation Why: No Job, No Money, No Car Thu, 24 Oct 2013 17:27:09 +0000 Teen-graph

“Too Poor To Drive”. This is the gut level conclusion that’s been propagated in “Generation Why” since January, 2012, long before the theory gained currency in the broader automotive world. In the nearly two years since, the “kids aren’t interested in cars because of technology/the environment/urbanization” meme has held up tenaciously – and it’s not entirely false.


The main issue has been a lack of data to support our argument. Hard data costs lots of time and money, something that is precious in the world of automotive reporting. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who really want the alternate theory to be true, and they’re happy to help their cause with lots of alarming but inaccurate articles.

Juan Barnett of DC Auto Geek has analyzed a new study by the IIHS, which looks at unemployment figures, the number of insured teenage drivers and graduated licensing laws, shows that unemployment for both teens and their parents, is by far the biggest factor in preventing younger people from driving. Without the resources for a car, insurance and gas, young people don’t have much hope getting behind the wheel or any car, let alone their own car.




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Insurance Institute Gives Redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla Only “Marginal” Score On Small Overlap Crash Test Fri, 04 Oct 2013 19:07:00 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducts its own independent crash testing of new cars, added the “small overlap test” to its rating procedures. That particular crash test simulates a 40 mph collision wherein the front driver side corner of the car strikes an oncoming car or a fixed object like a utility or light pole. Twenty five percent of highway deaths in head-on collisions are from that type of wreck. The IIHS yesterday released test results for the newly redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla and the compact sedan only received a “marginal” score. According to Automotive News, the Corolla cannot earn the institute’s Top Safety Pick honors, which are restricted to cars that have “acceptable” or “good” scores on all crash tests. 

Since the small overlap crash procedure was implemented last year, Toyota products have fared poorly. The 2013 Camry, Prius V hybrid and RAV4 crossover all earned a “poor” rating. When the IIHS only included traditional front, side and rollover testing in their ratings, Toyota typically has done well, with 21 of their models earning the Top Safety Pick honors for the 2013 model year.

In a statement a Toyota spokesman said that the company is devoted to safety but also questioned whether the new test accurately reflects real world conditions. “When all-new crash tests are introduced by the [IIHS], we need to be confident that the changes needed to accommodate the tests will enhance overall safety in real world crashes,” Toyota spokesman John Hanson said. “Toyota is committed to responding to this challenge as stridently as it has in the past, when met with more demanding and evolving vehicle performance criteria.”

In August, the 2014 Scion tC received an “acceptable” rating in the offset test, but the Corolla results may indicate that the company has work to do on other models. The Corolla’s “marginal” ranking was because the corner of the car was pushed back into the driver’s area, increasing the probability of leg injuries. Also, the crash test dummy’s head moved to the left in the collision, away from the main air bag, which might result in the driver’s head hitting the A pillar or dashboard. Fortunately, the 2014 Corolla is equipped with side curtain airbags, which protected the dummy’s head.

Look for a review of the 2014 Toyota Corolla here at TTAC early next week.

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Is It Time To Demand Better Performance On Overlap Crash Tests? Fri, 12 Jul 2013 11:49:24 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4, which underwent a major redesign earlier this year, was saddled with a “Poor” rating in the IIHS’ “small overlap” front crash test, the lowest designation possible.

The test, introduced last year, shows how vehicles handle a 40 mph impact with a 25 percent frontal overlap with a 5-foot tall barrier. A statement released by the IIHS outlines the fairly horrific sounding results of the crash test.

“The driver’s space was seriously compromised by intruding structure, and the dummy’s left foot was trapped by crushed and buckled sheet metal in the footwell. Injury measures on the dummy indicated a high risk of injury to the lower left leg. The dummy’s head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off the left side as the steering column moved more than 7 inches to the right, resulting in little airbag cushioning for the chest. Additionally, the safety belt allowed excessive forward movement of the dummy’s head and torso, contributing to the head hitting the instrument panel.”

The RAV4 is hardly alone is performing poorly in this test. The Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Patriot and Kia Sportage all performed “poorly”. The BMW X1, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Wrangler and Volkswagen Tiguan received “Marginal” ratings. The only vehicle that did well as the 2013 Subaru Forester. And yet somehow, a number of these vehicles are rated as a “Top Safety Pick” despite apparently being able to injure you severely in a crash that is quite common.

The poor performance of these vehicles has a fair amount of relevance in the real world. A recent report in Road & Track looked at offset front crashes and found that they are often fatal, especially at speeds of 40 mph. Many vehicle safety systems are designed with a full-on front crash in mind, but not the sort of offset collision the IIHS is testing for here – which happens to be fairly prevalent in real life. The 25 percent overlap crash, if it occurred in real life, would be particularly dangerous according to  R&T. With that kind of impact, the frame rails play no part in helping the car to decelerate, and that means a much more violent impact for anyone inside the car.

Only a quarter of the mass ahead of the safety cell remains to absorb the impact, and that’s not enough. The impact then pushes right through the front wheel, driving the suspension backwards. Depending on the vehicle and its speed, this could collapse the steering column, buckle the A pillar (pushing it back toward the driver or front passenger), and if the accident is severe enough, begin to crimp the door frame, front floor section, and door rail.

Despite the general unhappiness surrounding the increasing size and mass of new vehicles, a lot of it has to do with safety and crash protection. This can only be seen as a positive: car accidents are violent, traumatic events that can cause horrific injuries or death for those involved. It seems as if improving the performance of vehicles on these overlap tests should be a priority in the next generation of safety improvements for vehicles, given the prevalence of these crashes and how dangerous they can be to those inside the car. How those changes would impact vehicle design and engineering is something I’d like to know more about, but unfortunately, I lack the engineering/design/regulatory background to make any kind of prediction.

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Suzuki Death Watch 15: Kizashi Bests Camry In A Bittersweet Final Victory Thu, 20 Dec 2012 13:00:27 +0000

Kizashi Beats Camry! No, it’s not a reprise of Dewey Beats Truman, but the Suzuki Kizashi landed a parting shot against mid-size kingpin the Toyota Camry, soundly beating it in the latest round of IIHS crash testing.

The Kizashi, along with the Honda Accord, were the only two cars to receive a “Good” rating in the 40 mph front offset crash test. The Toyota Camry, along with the Prius V receieved a “Poor” rating, with Automotive News reporting

In both of Toyota’s vehicles, the crash caused significant intrusion into the occupant compartment — in the case of the Camry, the front wheel was forced sharply backward toward the driver’s feet. The driver-side airbags also failed to fully prevent a blow to the test dummy’s head in both crashes.

Too little, too late for Suzuki. But it must be nice to know that it beat the Camry at least once.


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Crash Tests For Dummies: Easy This Year, Hard Next Year Thu, 04 Oct 2012 12:45:29 +0000

Four 2013 models, the Lexus ES, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Subaru XV Crosstrek, and the Dodge Dart received the coveted  “Top Safety Pick” award by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For the new Lexus ES models, the award is a relief. The outgoing ES 350 model had earned only a marginal rating in the rear test.

For the Santa Fe, the award is a tradition: The previous generation model was also a “Top Safety Pick” award winner.

Subaru’s XV Crosstrek is new for 2013 and a twin to the Subaru Impreza, also a “Top Safety Pick”.

The Dodge Dart is a new model introduced for 2013, jointly developed by Fiat and Chrysler..

Getting to the top of IIHS pile is not hard:  Of the 180 vehicles IIHS tested for the 2012 model year, 132 were awarded the Top Safety Pick designation, Reuters writes.

Starting next year, a new front crash tests will evaluate a vehicle’s safety in a crash that impacts the front corners. Most manufacturers optimize cars for middle-front collisions, expect a series of fails until the new test specifications have found their way into the CADCAM stations.

In a recent test of 11 luxury midsize cars by using the new corner-front crash evaluation, only two models earned the top safety ranking, the IIHS said.

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This Is America’s Most Dangerous Car. Wait, There Are More Wed, 30 May 2012 14:34:24 +0000  

Most dangerous: Dodge Ram 1500

By now, you probably have heard (enough) of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) top safety picks. The IIHS provides an Academy Award worthy number of different categories, which assure that anybody can be a winner. But what are America’s most unsafe cars? This remained a secret until 24/7 Wall Street started digging.

Second most dangerous: Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab

They took the seven current-generation models that received a “marginal” or “poor” rating in two of the four categories. Then, 24/7 Wall St. combined the data  with records from Consumer Reports, NHTSA crash safety ratings, and JD Power’s  Initial Quality Study, to arrive on a list of “The Most Dangerous Cars in America.”

Third most dangerous: Mazda CX 7

In analyzing the data, it appears that the thumbs downs are pretty much consistent. Models that rated badly in the IIHS rankings usually received similarly poor reviews elsewhere.

Rank  Nameplate  Make  Bad ratings  2011 sales  Price  JDP IQS
1 Ram 1500  Dodge side-marginal; rollover-marginal 156,983 $22,120  2/5
2 Colorado Crew Cab Chevrolet side-poor; rollover-marginal; rear-marginal 31,026 $17,475  3/5
3 CX-7 Mazda rollover-marginal; rear-marginal 35,641 $22,190  4/5
4 CX-9 Mazda rollover-marginal; rear-marginal 34,421 $29,725  4/5
5 Pathfinder Nissan rollover-marginal; rear-marginal 25,935 $29,290  3/5
6 Wrangler Jeep side-marginal (2-door); side-poor (4-door); rear-marginal (both) 122,460 $22,970  3/5
7 SX4 Suzuki rollover-marginal; rear-marginal 12,520 $13,849  2/5

Customers appear blasé about the shoddy safety of these cars. Says 24/7 Wall Street:

“The poor ratings of these models do not appear to have affected their sales. In fact, sales of all models are up from last year. In all but one case, according to data provided by, sales grew at least 19% last year. And while most of these models’ sales are still below 2007 levels, sales the Jeep Wrangler not only increased the most but also jumped 50% since then.”

Now wait: Aren’t these big trucks supposed to be the epitomes of safety, whereas compacts get “I won’t put my kids in those” comments?

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Piston Slap: For the Next Stage in Life Wed, 06 Jul 2011 20:10:37 +0000


Mackenzie writes:

Hello, I am a 16-year-old girl looking to buy her first car. I am looking at Jeep Cherokees (NOT Grand Cherokees). I am trying to find a decent manual transmission one, but I can’t seem to locate any within a reasonable distance from me (Eastern Virginia).

My dad says I should look for a 1999-2001 Cherokee, but the few that I have found that are stick shift usually have pretty high mileage or are out of my budget. As car experts, would you guys recommend an older (94-98ish) Cherokee or a newer one with higher mileage?

I keep hearing that American-made cars are not as hardy as foreign-made cars, and that over 180,000 miles for a Cherokee is a no-go. My parents have agreed to pay half of the car, but with what I am finding, it’s still going to be a lot of money to pay. At first I was looking at $3500 tops, but I’m thinking I will have to raise that. Any help or advice y’all have on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

I know you want a Cherokee and they are pretty cool, but they are a terrible choice for a 16 year old. And not because Jeeps are junk and American cars aren’t has durable as foreign cars. As if. It’s the wrong move for things we haven’t discussed: gas cost, insurance rates and safety.

Let’s be real: teenagers will explore the limits of their driving skills. And I’d prefer you (or a friend who borrows your ride) keep the shiny side up. The Cherokee’s design dates back to the 1980s, so they aren’t especially great compared to modern car and trucks in a crash. And blaming it on old age alone is me being generous to the Cherokee. Perhaps its because of Federal regulations at the time, but trucks had little of the common sense safety engineering of cars from that era.

A boring little car is your best choice, you will have more money for other things, and will be better off in the future. If that sounds good to you, what car would you be interested in?

Find one of those in your price range. Make sure it has some service history or a host of new parts to ensure it hasn’t had a neglected, rough life. This is a better move for you, odds are you will have more money for other things in the future if you take my advice. And, believe it or not, that’s what you will want when you use that vehicle to move to the next stage of your life.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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IIHS Study Loves Red Light Cameras, Says Americans Do Too Thu, 30 Jun 2011 21:02:41 +0000

The controversy over red light cameras, once relegated to websites like TTAC,, and, is hitting the mainstream media thanks to a new study by the IIHS [PDF here]. The study used the following methodology:

Telephone surveys were conducted with 3,111 drivers in 14 large cities (population greater than 200,000) with long-standing red light camera programs and 300 drivers in Houston, using random samples of landline and cellphone numbers. For analyses combining responses from the 14 cities, cases were weighted to reflect each city’s share of the total population for the 14 cities.

And what did they find?

Among drivers in the 14 cities with red light camera programs, two-thirds favor the use of cameras for red light enforcement, and 42 percent strongly favor it. The chief reasons for opposing cameras were the perceptions that cameras make mistakes and that the motivation for installing them is revenue, not safety. Forty-one percent of drivers favor using cameras to enforce right-turn-on-red violations. Nearly 9 in 10 drivers were aware of the camera enforcement programs in their cities, and 59 percent of these drivers believe the cameras have made intersections safer. Almost half know someone who received a red light camera citation and 17 percent had received at least one ticket themselves. When compared with drivers in the 14 cities with camera programs, the percentage of drivers in Houston who strongly favored enforcement was about the same (45 percent), but strong opposition was higher in Houston than in the other cities (28 percent versus 18 percent).

Sounds like those red light cameras are pretty great after all, doesn’t it? That’s certainly the IIHS’s takeaway…

The IIHS concludes:

Most drivers in cities with long-standing red light camera programs support cameras and recognize their safety benefits, but communities could do a better job of educating the public about the dangers of right-turn-on-red violations and the need for enforcement. Given that camera opponents frequently said cameras make mistakes, it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

But that’s a fairly one-sided interpretation of the data, as you might expect from a body that derives its funding from the insurance industry, which in turn has a vested interest in anything that might reduce insurance payouts, regardless of other drawbacks or context. What do I mean by that? Let’s go line-by-line through the IIHS’s conclusions:

Most drivers in cities with long-standing red light camera programs support cameras and recognize their safety benefits

First of all, the data underlying this conclusion is skewed by only including respondents in cities with “long-running red light camera systems.” The only exception is one city that had red light cameras but voted them out: Houston. And despite finding stronger opposition there than in other cities with red light cameras, the IIHS is forced to concede another problematic finding: “In Houston, 53 percent of voters cast ballots against the cameras in November 2010. In the current study, however, 57 percent of the drivers interviewed said they favor camera enforcement, and 45 strongly favor cameras”).

So where are the respondents from cities that had cameras but voted them out? Where in this report can we hear the voices of the citizens of Anaheim? Or Cincinnati? Or San Bernadino? Or how about Baytown, Texas, where the fraudulent tendencies of the red light camera companies couldn’t have been more obvious? Sadly, the list goes on. The IIHS has made its point about “cities with long-standing red light camera programs,” but it’s not at all clear that this data reflects wider American sentiment.

Meanwhile, even among this selective data set, there are issues. When asked if drivers running red lights is a problem in the city, the most common answer, with 38%, was “not a problem.” The next-most popular choice, with 31.8%: “somewhat of a problem.” Furthermore, nearly 93% of respondents said they had not run a red light in the last 30 days, further indicating that the problem is rare and limited to a small percentage of the population. A more fair presentation of the data would simply state that drivers see red-light running as having high risk potential, but that they don’t see it as a common, or everyday problem. This doubtless helps fuel a major complaint about red light cameras, namely that they exist primarily for revenue generation rather than safety.

Given that camera opponents frequently said cameras make mistakes, it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

For one thing, the fallibility of cameras was not overwhelmingly chosen as a reason for opposition. At 26.4%, it was the number one reason for opposing, but “focus is on money, not safety” was an extremely close second, at 26.1%. If anything, the need for education is not limited to “explaining safeguards,” but rather explaining the financial incentives that local governments and photo enforcement firms have to rack up as many tickets, accurate or not, as possible. After all, if 4.4 percent are saying “camera programs cost too much money,” clearly there’s a disconnect between how people view red light cameras and the reality (as red light cameras are almost always revenue positive for local governments, unless massive errors or fraud force them to return fines).

but communities could do a better job of educating the public about the dangers of right-turn-on-red violations and the need for enforcement… it appears communities also could do a better job of explaining the safeguards that ensure citations are issued only to drivers who clearly run red lights.

Too bad the IIHS hadn’t sounded the alarm on the need for pro-red light camera “education” a few months ago… Bill Kroske might still have a job. In all seriousness, the 90%+ awareness level among respondents seems to indicate that folks do know that the cameras exist… what the IIHS seems to be suggesting is that people should be indoctrinated to believe that more red lights are fundamentally good, and that these beneficent cameras never screw up. Both of these points of “education” are aimed more at propagating photo enforcement industry talking points than furthering the public good.

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The Most And Least Died-In Vehicles Of 2006-2009 Thu, 09 Jun 2011 14:20:53 +0000

Forget crash test results, star ratings, or the number of acronym-laden electronic nanny systems that a vehicle has. If you’re a play-it-by-the-numbers kind of person and want to know safe a car is, statistically speaking, you’ll want to check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new status report on “Dying In A Crash” [PDF].  The latest data comes from the 2006-2009 period, and includes only 2005-2008 model-year vehicles with at least 100,000 “registered vehicle years” in that time frame (if a vehicle was substantially redesigned in 2005-08, only the most recent design is included). Also,

researchers adjusted for a variety of factors that affect crash rates, including driver age and gender, calendar year, vehicle age, and vehicle density at the garaging location. Previously, researchers had adjusted only for driver age and gender.

“The adjusted driver death rates do abetter job of teasing out differences among vehicles, but they can only go so far. For one thing, people don’t behave the same when they’re behind the wheel of a sports car as when they’re driving a minivan. And some people are more susceptible to injury and death for reasons that can’t completely be adjusted for.”

Keep in mind that this data is for drivers only, since passenger data is harder to adjust for. Also, statistics don’t determine your safety on an individual level… that’s up to you every time you take the wheel. For more caveats (and the complete list), check out the report itself… or just wave this in front of your friends and family members who drive cars on the “highest rates of driver death” list, and hyperventilate at them. They’ll either thank you or tell you to take your nannyish concern elsewhere.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Picture 209 Picture 212 Picture 210 Picture 211 Courtesy: IIHS) ]]> 63
IIHS Documents Link Between Side Crash Results, Fatalities Wed, 19 Jan 2011 23:57:13 +0000

Side head and torso airbags have greatly boosted driver safety in left-side impact crashes, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Side bags alone can make the difference between a “poor” result, and a “good” result, as they do in the case of the 2003 Accord, although structural integrity is also very important. Drivers in cars with a good rating were 70 percent less likely to die in such a crash than drivers in cars rated poor. Drivers of vehicles rated “acceptable” and “marginal” are 64 percent and 49 percent less likely to die in such crashes than drivers of poor-rated cars, respectively.

The study is the most recent in a series the IIHS undertook in 2004 to nudge manufacturers towards improving side impact safety. Has it worked? “The answer is a resounding yes,” says David Zuby, the Institute’s chief research officer. Zuby credits the agency’s rating system for pushing the manufacturers towards side head and torso bags, as well as strong side structures, which have also been very important in improving side impact safety. Currently, 78 percent of vehicle designs that have been tested by IIHS have good side ratings, compared with only about one third of vehicles tested during the program’s first two years.

Some winners: ’07-’09 Prius, Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, and Honda Accord (all good).

Some losers: PT Cruiser (poor), BMW 3 series convertible (marginal), VW Beetle (poor), and the previous generation Maxima (marginal).

Twenty-seven percent of all in vehicle traffic deaths in 2009—6,362– were caused by side impacts.

In the Institutes test, a vehicle is hit on the driver side by a deformable barrier weighing 3,300 lbs and traveling at 31 mph. The barrier’s height and shape are designed like the front of a typical SUV or pickup.

Overall safety ratings here:

Press release and study here:

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America’s Safest Cars Aren’t American Wed, 22 Dec 2010 11:53:52 +0000

Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will issue its list of what it thinks are the safest vehicles in America. 66 vehicles will be on the list. 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan. Any guesses who will lead the list?

“Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi each have 9 winners for 2011. Next in line with 8 awards apiece are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes. Subaru earns 5 awards for 2011.“

The IIHS Top Safety Pick Award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in institute tests. Winners also must have available electronic stability control, a crash avoidance feature that significantly reduces crash risk.

And what about the epitomes of safety, SUVs and trucks? Says the IIHS:

“The redesigned Volkswagen Touareg is the only large SUV to earn Top Safety Pick for 2011. The Institute doesn’t normally evaluate SUVs this large, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the Touareg’s crash-worthiness. None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year’s award, and large pickups haven’t yet been tested.”

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IIHS: Hand-Held Cell Phone Bans Don’t Work Mon, 01 Feb 2010 17:56:17 +0000

The Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institutes For Highway Safety, reports that an audit of insurance claim filings shows no reduction in claim amounts in states with bans on cell phone use in cars. According to the report:

HLDI researchers calculated monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years (a vehicle year is 1 car insured for 1 year, 2 insured for 6 months each, etc.) for vehicles up to 3 years old during the months immediately before and after hand-held phone use was banned while driving in New York (Nov. 2001), the District of Columbia (July 2004), Connecticut (Oct. 2005), and California (July 2008). Comparable data were collected for nearby jurisdictions without such bans. This method controlled for possible changes in collision claim rates unrelated to the bans — changes in the number of miles driven due to the economy, seasonal changes in driving patterns, etc.

Month-to-month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn’t change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn’t have such laws.

Because the HLDI didn’t research phone usage to draw a causal connection between phone use and insurance claims, this study can’t prove whether hands-free phone use is as dangerous and handheld phoning while driving, or if the bans simply don’t limit the use of handheld phones while driving. Given the challenges of handheld phone ban enforcement and the fact that hands-free phone use hasn’t been proven to be less dangerous, either possiblity is equally likely. The HLDI concludes:

Whatever the reason, the key finding is that crashes aren’t going down where hand-held phone use has been banned. This finding doesn’t auger well for any safety payoff from all the new laws that ban phone use and texting while driving.

This ambiguity means more headaches for automakers like Ford, who hope to market hands-free capabilities like those enabled by the Sync system on fears of distracted driving. Had this study been able to find a link between hands-free laws and a decrease in insurance claims, that marketing angle might still have the strength of a fear factor behind it. But for every study like this that fails to conclusively prove the safety advantages of hands-free technology, the possibility grows that this technology will end up being seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

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Virginia DOT Defends Red Light Camera Study Mon, 04 Jan 2010 17:58:49 +0000 (

In 2007, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) performed one of the most comprehensive statewide surveys of the impact of red light cameras on safety (view report). It caused quite a stir upon its release. The study took advantage of seven years’ worth of data both before and after cameras were installed, examining a far more extensive dataset than most competing studies.

Despite the agency’s best effort to present automated enforcement in a positive light, the unavoidable results were that, on a statewide level, accidents and injuries increased where cameras were used. This outcome has proved to be an embarrassment for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which has been the primary organization generating research claiming that red light cameras improve safety. IIHS noted that VDOT essentially bent over backwards to accommodate the industry, but because the ultimate results were unfavorable, the VDOT report should be discarded.

“That the final conclusions of the [VDOT] study are guarded and more conservative than the results might suggest supports our belief that the negative results of the study cannot, and should not be cited and used as a deterrent to the implementation of red light camera programs,” a draft 2007 IIHS critique stated.

Essentially, IIHS argued that one should question the VDOT/Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) study because the results conflicted with conclusions generated by IIHS itself.

“A large body of peer-reviewed research generally has found that camera enforcement reduces red light violations and injury crashes,” the final IIHS critique stated. “Results of a new study commissioned by the Virginia Transportation Research Council and completed in June 2007 appear to contradict these earlier findings, but there are significant methodological issues with the VTRC study that call into question the validity of its conclusions.”

The insurance industry’s financial interest in the issue of photo enforcement amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. States like Arizona, California and Illinois impose license points on certain types of red light camera and speed camera tickets. That means for each photo ticket issued, the insurance companies have the legal right impose an annual monetary surcharge on the recipient of as little as $25 to as much as $1000 extra per year.

The draft insurance industry critique argued that VDOT’s model “underestimated” the benefits of red light cameras by using an improper statistical model influenced by the enforcement location selection process. IIHS chose two intersections and re-analyzed the data to illustrate the industry’s suspicion that VDOT’s methodology produced unfair results. VDOT countered this by doing a full-blown reanalysis following every IIHS recommendation.

“While findings regarding rear-end crashes and angle crashes did not change substantially, Table R1 below suggests that the approaches suggested by the reviewers would have caused red light running crashes to increase slightly,” VDOT explained in its response to IIHS.

Specifically, instead of a 42 percent increase in rear-end collisions, the cameras would be associated with a 48 percent increase in accidents. Angle collisions would increase 30 percent instead of 20 percent and “red light running” accidents would increase 15 percent.

In the final, published version of its paper, IIHS dropped the concrete analysis of VDOT’s equation but retained the vague criticisms about how the “highly unusual crash prediction model” was “unreliable.” In a November 2008 email, VDOT Associate Principal Research Scientist John Miller said that he intended to ask IIHS to include VDOT’s response on its website.

As of January 2010, IIHS had not done so. VDOT posted all of the raw data for its report online, inviting independent analysis and critique as the agency finalized its work. IIHS does not provide any raw data on its website that would allow independent verification of the industry’s claims.

View the full VDOT/VTRC point-by-point response in a 170k PDF file at the source link below. The draft of the IIHS report is provided with VDOT’s comments (“authors’ response”) given in gray shaded boxes.

Source: PDF File Peer Review of 2007 VTRC Study and Author Response (IIHS / Virginia Transportation Research Council, 11/1/2007)

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IIHS Moves Crash Test Goalposts, Pisses Off Toyota Wed, 18 Nov 2009 21:02:57 +0000

The IIHS has released its “Top Safety Picks 2010,” and thanks in part to the addition of roof crush tests that exceed federal standards (4x vehicle weight for an “acceptable” score) , a spot of drama has ensued. Not a single Toyota, Lexus or Scion made the list, for example, causing Toyota’s Irv Miller to lay into the IIHS [via Jalopnik].

In 2009, Toyota won more IIHS Top Safety Pick (TSP) awards than any other manufacturer. Toyota continues to improve vehicle passive and active safety, including improvement of past winners of IIHS TSP. IIHS’ statement that Toyota was shut out for 2010 is extreme and misleading, considering there are 38 Toyota, Lexus and Scion models, and only three were tested for roof strength by IIHS: Camry, RAV4 and Yaris. This is the first year IIHS has included its own roof strength tests, which exceed federal standards, for TSP consideration. All Toyota vehicles meet or exceed Federal Safety Standards for frontal and side impact, roof crush resistance and rollover protection.

Well, Toyota, if you play the IIHS’s game (and based on Miller’s TSP-counting, you are) you can’t start whining about losing just because the goalposts were moved. Moving goalposts and exceeding federal requirements is what the IIHS does. The IIHS’s single aim is to continually move the safety benchmark ever upward, without taking fuel efficiency, packaging or any other inevitable design compromises into account. Live by the sword, die by the sword. If meeting federal standards is enough (and it is), just ignore the IIHS like former TSP winners and 2010 losers BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Saab are. Or better yet, join the debate over whether or not increased roof crush standards actually make cars safer. As it’s played out, Miller’s response serves only to reduce the automaker’s likability factor and lend credence to rumors that Toyota fudges structural issues and hides the truth.

Here are your 2010 IIHS Top Safety Pick Winners:

Large cars
Buick LaCrosse
Ford Taurus
Lincoln MKS
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Chevrolet Malibu built after October 2009
Chrysler Sebring 4-door with optional electronic stability control
Dodge Avenger with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Passat sedan
Volvo C30

Small cars
Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Subaru Impreza except WRX
Volkswagen Golf 4-door

Midsize SUVs
Dodge Journey
Subaru Tribeca
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

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IIHS Demands Increased Roof Crush Standards. Wrong Answer. Fri, 06 Feb 2009 16:44:00 +0000

There are two main problems with debunking auto-related misconceptions. First, not everyone is ready, willing or able to confront the truth. Second, once you debunk something, it doesn’t stay debunked. TTAC’s Bob Elton dealt with the roof crush standard issue in his editorial “The Counterintuitive Truth About Roof Crush Standards” back in June 2006. He argued that increasing roof strength only increases the number of rollover accidents. Common sense: the higher a vehicle’s center of gravity, the more likely it will roll. Elton also revealed that “In 74% of cases, roof intrusion was not a factor. Rollover accidents are fatal because the occupants are usually ejected, or partially ejected, during the crash.” And that’s because… they’re not wearing their seat-belts. And yet, The Detroit News reports that “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [IIHS] said Wednesday it will require automakers to dramatically increase the strength of vehicle roofs to receive its top safety pick ratings.” The road to hell? You don’t know the half of it…

As we’ve pointed out numerous times, the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) is one of America’s best governmental agencies. When it comes to new regulations, they move slowly because they move carefully.

A great deal of road safety is counter-intuitive (e.g. “sobriety checkpoints” are less effective at removing drunk drivers from the the road than roving patrols). The NHTSA doesn’t rush to judgement to avoid exactly the kind of unintended consequences described above. And here goes the industry lobby group, once again, subverting science and pretending to stick-up for their customers’ safety.

In January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled a proposal to require a vehicle roof to withstand a force equal to 2.5 times the vehicle weight while at the same time maintaining sufficient head room for a buckled-in, average-size adult male to avoid being struck. That’s up from the current standard of withstanding a force equal to 1.5 times the vehicle weight. But NHTSA hasn’t finalized its regulation.

Lund said starting in the fall IIHS will require automakers to have a 4.0 rating to win a top safety pick.

“We see significant safety benefits in stronger vehicle roofs,” Lund said.

“The government is moving slowly and they are going to continue to move slowly.”

He said NHTSA has “clearly undercounted” the number of injuries and deaths that can be prevented by stronger roofs.

How? And how can The Detroit News repeat such a viscious slur without asking for proof? Show me the benefits.

You know me folks; I don’t blindly accept the word of any auto industry pressure groups of any stripe on anything. But on this one, I reckon the Auto Alliance has got it right. The IIHS’ roof crush standard would decrease fleet wide mpg and increase costs to the consumer– without adding significant demonstrable safety to motorists.

“Drivers and passengers are better served by a system of enhancements including improvements in vehicle stability, ejection mitigation, roof crush resistance as well as road improvement and behavioral strategies aimed at consumer education,” alliance spokesman Wade Newton said.

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