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Side Impact Car Crash Collisions

June 13, 2012

One-third of vehicular deaths occur in side impacts. This is according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit organization that is supposed to operate independently of the auto manufacturers and the Federal Government.

So, are vehicle occupants adequately protected in side impact collisions? There are certain measures in place that do suggest appropriate safety. As compared with frontal impacts, however, there is a relatively shallow crumple zone for deformation between the occupants and the closest vehicle side-structure.

A stiff side and roof structure combine to protect the occupant from injury by maintaining survival space, and dissipating the force of the collision away from the occupant. Safety cage designs, such as those used by Volvo, Mercedes, and Subaru for decades, are examples of side impact occupant protection.

In addition to energy absorbing side structures, the side impact airbag has proven to be one of the most effective methods of improving vehicle crashworthiness in side impact collisions. Widespread implementation of side impact airbags began in the 1990s and was not limited exclusively to luxury manufacturers; for example, a combination head/torso seat mounted side airbag was introduced as standard equipment on the 1999 Hyundai Sonata.

In 2012 more than 95% of passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. were equipped with side impact airbags as standard equipment. Side airbags offer a significant statistical decrease in injuries;, for example, serious head injuries.

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