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How Crash Tests Are Performed

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On: Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 12:39PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

How Crash Tests Are Performed

Everyone knows that car crash tests are done to evaluate the level of safety in automobiles, but how, exactly, are those tests performed?
There are several types of crash tests that are performed to establish standards in crashworthiness and crash compatibility for automobiles and components.

Frontal-impact tests have been around the longest and are what most people envision when crash tests are mentioned (the old crash test dummy being thrown into the windshield comes to mind), but nowadays crash tests are much more sophisticated. Test includes crash impact on solid concrete walls at a specific speed, and results of collisions involving high side-impact of SUVs or trucks.

Offset tests involve crash tests where only part of the car impacts with a vehicle, the force of the impact remains approximately the same as in frontal impact tests, but only a portion of the car is required to absorb all of the force. This test is done to evaluate the impact on a car turning into oncoming traffic. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety performs these tests.

Side-impact crash tests are performed to evaluate the result of side-impact crashes, which have a very high incidence of fatality, and to measure the crumple zone for the ability to absorb impact before the occupant is injured. Side-impact crashes, with their high fatality rates, are responsible for inspiring the use of side airbags.

Roll-over tests are done to check the car’s performance in supporting itself in case the car turns upside down, and to measure a potential fatality factor in vehicles after roll-over accidents occur, this test does not measure the potential for a vehicle to roll.

Roadside hardware crash tests are used to ensure crash barriers will protect occupants from roadside hazards, and to ensure that guard rails, sign posts, and light poles do not pose an undue hazard to vehicle occupants.

Old versus New—Crash tests are performed on two different generations of the same car model to show the advancements in crashworthiness.

Government agencies that are involved in developing and/or implementing crash tests that can be found online are: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS), the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP), and the Japan New Car Assessment Program (JNCAP). For more specific information on crash tests, you can access the website for any of the above organizations.


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