Understanding Car Crash Testing

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Car crash test is carried out to assess the safety and crash compatibility of a car, by mimicking the most common types of accidents in car crash test facility/lab. The data gathered from these crash tests provides guidance to the manufacturers and vehicle owners.

There are different car crash test programs that provide the vehicle buyers, information regarding the safety performance of a vehicle. Few of the institutes that conduct car crash tests and provide assessed data are National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NCAP-USA), Euro-new Car Assessment Program (Euro-NCAP), Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), and JapNCAP. All these institutes use new and used vehicles and hybrid dummies to test the impact of crash on car, passengers, and pedestrians.

Car Crash Safety Rating System

Normally, these programs have designed a five-star safety rating system that helps in comparing different cars. A car having five-star rating means that it provided excellent crash protection to the occupants during the crash test and it is well-equipped with the latest crash avoidance technology. A four-star rating means car performed pretty well during the crash test by providing excellent protection and it may be equipped with latest crash avoidance technology. A three-star rating shows that car provides average to good protection to the driver and passenger/s protection but doesn’t have advanced car crash avoidance technology. A two-star rating means car provides nominal protection to the occupants and it lacks the crash avoidance technology. One-star rating, the lowest rating, means car provide marginal protection to the occupants.

There are multiple types of crash tests carried out to assess the crash compatibility of a car. Few of the crash tests are explained below.


Frontal Crash Test

Frontal impact test is carried out by crashing a car into a solid concrete wall at a specific speed. Moreover, the frontal crash test can also be vehicle-vehicle.

Frontal Crash test is divided into two categories: Moderate overlap frontal test and small overlap frontal test. In both tests, the speed of the car is just under 40 mph (speed may vary depending on the institute carrying out the test), and a hybrid dummy is sitting on the driver seat. Sensors installed on hybrid dummy help in measuring the impact on the head, chest, and neck of the dummy.

In the moderate overlap frontal test, 40% of the vehicle’s front from the driver side strikes the concrete barrier. Small overlap frontal test replicates the crash when the front of the car strikes a poll or a tree. In this test, 25% of the vehicle’s front strikes a barrier from the driver’s side. Both these crash tests help in analyzing the design of seat-belts and airbags.

After the frontal impact test, a thorough method is a used to gather and analyze the results of the crash. The method involves identifying injury scale, door-opening at the point of the impact, easiness in door-opening after the impact, and gas leakage after the impact.


Side Impact Test

Side impacts in vehicles result in high fatality rates because of the absence of proper crumple zone. Crumple zones absorb and reduce the impact and protect the passengers. In the lab, a movable barrier attached of an aluminium honeycomb (similar to SUV) crashes into the driver side of the car. The speed of the barrier is around 30 mph (depending on the institute where the test is carried out).

Factors considered in determining a vehicle’s side safety rating include injury measures, head protection, and structural performance. Moreover, general aspects such as door-opening at the impact, easiness in door-opening after the impact, and gas leakage after the impact are also considered while rating..


Rollover Test

Roll-over tests are carried to judge the risk of roll-over after a collision or sudden curving moment. Taller vehicles such as mini-vans, SUVs, and pickups are more likely to roll-over because of their higher center of gravity. A vehicle’s rollover is linked with roof strength of the vehicle. So, roof strength test is designed to check the strength of roof during a roll-over. Different institutes use different methods to perform the roll-over test.


Whiplash Test

Whiplash Test is carried out to assess a rear-end crash. Rear impact crash can cause head, neck, and spine injury. For this test, a dummy is placed on the seat in the laboratory and the forces resulted by rear-end-crash are applied. Neck forces and geometries of the seat are used to evaluate the level of protection the car seat.

The concept of car crash test is quite unheard in Pakistan. In fact, neither government nor car manufacturers has done anything about this. Although, few cars are coming with advanced safety features, but this is insufficient, considering the increase in the number of roads accidents. Government and car manufacturers need to pay attention towards this serious issue.


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  1. Guest says

    Article on crash testing has 396 views, 2 shares and 0 comments after so many days.

    Public cares naught about safety, that is why the car manufacturers get away with selling cars with no airbags and seat belts.

  2. Saqib Khan says

    well explained.

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