Researchers evaluate vehicle structure and restraints such as airbags and seatbelts to determine the level of crashworthiness in passenger cars and trucks.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performs crash tests, which also produce information about the effectiveness of crumple zones.
A crashworthy design in a vehicle is all about safety. In terms of safety design standards, the IIHS rates vehicles from good to poor depending on the results of their high-speed crash tests. The best crashworthy designs help to reduce the risk of injury and death. Such designs begin with a strong framework for vehicle occupants.
Kinetic forces are in play whenever a vehicle crashes. The amount of force that is present depends on speed and mass, not only of the vehicle itself but of the object it hits. The main objective of vehicle safety is to deflect the force away from the occupants of the car or truck.
Crumple zones at work
In a collision, some amount of kinetic force transfers to objects such as another vehicle and to the people involved in the crash. For example, a great deal of force goes into bending the steel frame of the vehicle. Consequently, that amount of force does not transfer to the occupants. The crumple zone is an area in a vehicle that is specifically designed to be crushed or otherwise damaged in order to absorb as much of the energy of impact as possible in a collision and keep it away from the occupants. Today, because of innovations like crumple zones, passenger cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and vans are safer than ever, reducing injuries and fatalities—and the safety research and testing continues.