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 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.
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.
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.
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…