IIHS Documents Link Between Side Crash Results, Fatalities

David C. Holzman
by David C. Holzman

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: http://www.iihs.org/ratings/default.aspx

Press release and study here: http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr011911.html

Join the conversation
4 of 18 comments
  • Benzaholic Benzaholic on Jan 20, 2011

    The interesting aspect of the IIHS side impact testing is that it tests all vehicles against being T-boned by a common SUV/pickup, whereas the front impact testing is still only relative to the size and mass of the vehicle being tested. Obviously we can reach a point where we add another $500 in per vehicle costs to save an estimated 5 lives a year. This would be money well spent to those five people, but maybe not so much for the other 100,000 buyers of the car. Could go off on a rant here about how the current NHTSA guy apparently doesn't want any of us to do our own driving, but let's save that for another time.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jan 20, 2011

    I wouldn't pay extra for front airbags if I had the option, but I would pay extra for side airbags.

    • See 1 previous
    • Advo Advo on Jan 21, 2011

      Hopefully this vid of 2 cars crashing into each other at a 'mere' 40mph each will change your mind about airbags and how they can stop your head from plowing into the steering wheel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBDyeWofcLY This vid allows you a driver`s view of what it`s like to crash into another car going at the same 60 mph as you are. They are older cars, but the expert assures us that the results in a modern car at that speed would be the same! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe3JpuVy4cA&feature=channel

  • Dukeisduke Only if there's a significant price difference between it and the Lexus GX. Otherwise, no. If they do bring it over, they'll have to ditch that ugly grille.
  • Theflyersfan Chris here just gave me a big old dose of nightmare fuel with this. Let me explain... This past Saturday, driving home after doing some furniture shopping. I-64 Westbound is closed for extensive repairs in my part of Louisville so I had to take surface streets home. No problem as it's basically a straight shot from said furniture store to my domicile. Now, I had that recent spinal fusion surgery in my neck complete with four screws, some plates, artificial bone, and the chance that things might not have healed correctly so things are a bit tender and sore still. Driving home in a part of the area named St. Matthews when I pass a Walgreens. Barreling out of this Walgreens and totally ignoring the stop sign, and situational awareness of ANYTHING around him is a truck, very similar to the one shown above. Same color even. It's a four lane road - main drag through town. I'm in the inside lane and this 7,000 pound monstrosity is suddenly feet from turning an MX-5 into shrapnel. Top is down, had my wits, quickly downshift and manage to do a wild u-turn like move into the oncoming traffic lanes but avoided the hit. The neck, however, didn't like the strain and trauma and sent parts of my body into fits of limited sensations and pain. The truck driver, realizing what he's done suddenly stops. My top is down, windows are down, and we make eye contact as I pull alongside the person I have suddenly wished death on inside a flaming pit. And if I repeat the sentences of what was yelled at that jack***es face, I'll be on insta-ban here in milliseconds. He yells over, "Man, I'm sorry...I didn't see ya!" Well, ***face, learn what a stop sign means and scan the scene first. And get something that you can see over and in front instead of the blind spots that hide everyone under the age of 14 in front of the truck. So, I'm all for forcing these overdone, oversized, overfed, overstyled, guzzling, tiny-genital compensating redneck wannabe road monsters taken out back and put to rest and we return to normalcy. Made it home hurting like hell and tests were done today to check for further injury. And that Mazda can turn and spin on a dime... Try that move in that Sierra AT4XBZQZW8! whatever.
  • Dukeisduke I've read stories about that air suspension system - insanely high pressures, and crazy expensive to repair. I loved the Mark VIII's styling back then, but it definitely hasn't aged well.Also:"Mark VII was the first Mark available with dual front airbags..." Did you mean Mark VIII?
  • Kwik_Shift With qualified AA Californians set to get a million reparation dollars each, Tesla sales should soar then. 😏
  • Dukeisduke Six figures for what's basically a four-wheeled Slingshot? I don't they'll get a lot of takers, at least for on-road use.Does it have ABS or traction control? I imagine it's a snap to break the wheels loose.