Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released some interesting crash results in a report published in March this year. The report summarizes the damage and the costs involved for numerous vehicles when crash-tested at 3 mph (corner impact) and 6 mph (full impact) for bumper performance, in tests that were designed to simulate real-life vehicle-to-vehicle impact scenarios. Just to put things into perspective, the average human walks at about 3 miles per hour….so we are talking of really low speeds.
The results of the bumper tests are not very encouraging. Here is how IIHS president Adrian Lund summarizes them in the report:
The whole purpose of bumpers is to keep damage away from head-lights, hoods, and other parts that are expensive to repair, but this purpose was accomplished in only 2 of the 68 tests we conducted. In the rest, what we found is that bumpers aren’t up to the job.
When bumpers fail their functional requirements, safety issues and damage and repair cost issues will arise. Here are some post-crash repair costs for various vehicles that were tested.
It should be noted that costs in the above table are just repair costs, incidentals are not included. For example, if your headlights are damaged in a night-time crash, you won’t be able to drive the car home. This means additional costs of transportation and some priceless headache.
Note the numbers on the 1981 Ford Escort. Apparently, it seems to have the best bumper ever designed. So what if it looks a bit ugly (see image below). Ugly is better than thousands of dollars in repair costs.
The Best Bumper Ever: 1981 Ford Escort
One reason for the 1981 Ford acing the performance is that it was built before the federal standards for bumper tests were slackened in 1982. Before 1982, all bumper crash tests were performed at 5 mph (with stringent checks on damage to safety equipment); now they are being performed at 2.5 mph and allow unlimited damage (man…how many times people crash cars at 2.5 mph or slower?).
According to IIHS, the two main factors that drove up the costs for some of the vehicles were: 1. just poor design resulting in extensive damage, and 2. prices of parts that were damaged. The report suggests that manufacturers may have been compromising on bumper performance in favor of style. Hmm…talk about the general human tendency to assign undue importance to external appearances.
Yeah, insurance can cover the costs…but keep in mind that this study is conducted by IIHS, which is wholly supported by insurance agencies. Any results published by the institute are bound to influence insurance costs. So, in a way, you will be paying more for poorly designed bumpers, whether you are in a crash or not.
Click here to read the entire report (pdf file).