IIHS Calls For Bumper-Height Regulation

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
iihs calls for bumper height regulation

The IIHS’s latest bid for relevance comes in the form of an entirely unshocking revelation: crash a car and an small SUV together, and the car will be more expensive to repair. I know, I know… mind-blowing stuff. And it would be goofy enough if the IIHS had performed these crash tests simply for the data, but in fact the results gave them cause to exhume one of the most asinine crusades in the history of automotive regulation: regulating bumper height. Because, as the IIHS’s Joe Nolan puts it

We picked vehicles from the same manufacturer because we think automakers should at the least pay attention to bumper compatibility across their own fleets. The results show that many don’t.

And why not? Well, maybe because the odds of hitting a vehicle made by the same manufacturer that made your car are so astronomically unlikely that testing “bumper compatibility” let alone calling automakers to task for not paying enough attention to this meaningless metric is the height of self-important stupidity. But of course the IIHS wasn’t going to just leave things there…

Yes, not only should automakers be embarrassed that their vehicles don’t crash well together, but the government should also be doing something about this problem! Take it away, you insurance industry-funded goofballs:

The Institute in July 2008 petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to regulate bumpers on SUVs and pickups the same as cars, and require them to match up in a way that shields both vehicles from costly damage. The agency in June 2009 agreed to seek comments on the petition but hasn’t moved forward with a rulemaking or a low-speed compliance test for bumpers.

Regulators have long said that requiring light trucks to have bumpers would compromise off-road maneuverability and make it hard to use these kinds of vehicles at loading ramps. The Institute counters that very few SUVs and pickups are used off road. In addition, bumpers aren’t the limiting factor in most vehicles’ approach and departure angles. Instead air dams, bumper covers, exhaust pipes, and other trim mounted lower than the bumpers get in the way.

Oh no! Maybe the IIHS should petition the government to make rules requiring every vehicle sold in the US to be the exact same size and weight (and hey, why not require the same color while we’re at it?). Because clearly all this choice is having bad, bad, naughty effects… as long as you crash your car into a bigger car. Luckily politicians have a much better grasp of the inherent trade-off between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome than the safety-first ninnies at the IIHS, and we expect the call for bumper-height regulation to fall on deaf ears. Because, taken to its logical conclusion, the IIHS’s logic would essentially force all vehicles onto the same basic platform dimensions, even further reducing the range of choice in an auto market that has already been homogenized enough.

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  • Findude Findude on Dec 03, 2010

    A forum like this is a silly place to discuss bumper height. It's a proper topic when sitting inside a Lotus 7.

  • 210delray 210delray on Dec 03, 2010

    I don't get all the vitriol from Ed. Others have said it -- bumper heights on cars have been standardized since the mid-70s, when those rubber-bumper MGs appeared. There's no reason that CUVs like the ones tested couldn't have matching heights -- no one's taking a RAV4 off-road, for example. And even for pickups and larger SUVS, the concerns about approach and departure angles can be resolved by shortening overhangs. Ground clearance is not an issue here, as the minimum regulatory bumper height is 16 inches, far more than the ground clearance on any pickup or SUV as it leaves the factory.

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