Not since 1949 have we seen a lower US fatality crash figure, according to an announcement late last year by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The reason? More stringent Crash Testing.
With a total of about 46 billion miles driven, 2011 saw 32,885 fatalities. And although NHTSA estimates that 10% of those fatalities were due to driver distraction, we have reason to believe that the statistic is closer to 50% (but that is a story for another time).
Upping the aggressiveness of vehicle rash testing, over the past several years, is attributed as the primary reason for seeing reduced automobile fatalities.
By (voluntarily) crashing their new vehicles into “barriers” at higher speeds, additional safety improvements became necessary, in order for manufacturers to get a good safety rating. Great safety ratings sell cars.
Consider that a 5MPH increase in crash velocity results in a quadrupling of kinetic energy (KE): KE=1/2mv2.
In other words, it’s been estimated that by making vehicle crash tests more aggressive that the “Kinetic Energy” the amount of force which vehicles (and their crash test dummies) needed to be able to sustain increased up to 80%.
Crash results (which are posted on the IIHS website) have proven to a strong motivator for vehicle manufacturers to make vehicles which score HIGHER in those crash tests.
Some cars are actually crashed again and again as manufacturers try to improve their vehicle safety score in the eye of the public.
The downside to these “stiffer” and more fatality proof vehicles us increased whiplash injuries. So while car companies continue to improve the crash worthiness of their vehicles, whiplash rates continue to increase.