Many California residents study crash test results before deciding which car to buy, but some road safety advocates say that side-impact accident ratings provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provide consumers with little in the way of valuable information. The Virginia-based nonprofit group started to conduct side-impact tests in 2003, but virtually all of the cars, minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks currently sold in the United States pass these tests with flying colors.
The IIHS has conceded that automobile safety engineering has now made its side-impact tests largely redundant, and it announced that far more rigorous testing standards would soon be introduced. The IIHS says that the new standards will evaluate cars in accident simulations that use more formidable crash barriers and take place at higher speeds. These changes will increase the amount of stress that vehicles are subjected to by 82%.
When the IIHS began conducting side-impact tests, only 20% of the vehicles evaluated earned a passing grade. That figure has since risen to 99%. While side-curtain airbags and more robust safety cages may make modern vehicles appear safer on paper, they may not fare as well in real motor vehicle accidents because the SUVs and pickup trucks that often strike them have become far taller and heavier in recent years. The IIHS says that more rigorous testing is required because side impacts are particularly dangerous and account four almost one in four road fatalities.
Many side impacts occur in intersections and are caused by drivers who fail to notice or ignore red lights. When representing a victim who was injured in such a crash, experienced personal injury attorneys may visit the scene to gather evidence that may have been missed by the police. Attorneys or their investigators could canvass the area for eyewitnesses that may have left the scene before police arrive, and they could also check intersections and nearby buildings for red light or security cameras that could have recorded the events as they unfolded.