Many Texas residents check safety ratings carefully before visiting dealer showrooms to buy a new car, pickup truck or SUV, and many of them are surprised to find that just about every vehicle on offer has passed a series of crash tests with flying colors. This is because the way crash worthiness is evaluated has not changed much in decades. Over the same period, automobile safety engineering has improved by leaps and bounds.
This means that the star ratings issued to passenger vehicles no longer provide consumers with useful information, and this is especially true when it comes to side-impact protection. When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began conducting side-impact accident evaluations in 2003, only one in four of the vehicles tested was given a passing grade. That figure has since risen to 99%. This concerns road safety advocates because side-impact collisions account for 25% of all road deaths in the United States.
The IIHS conducts crash tests to provide information for insurance companies as well as consumers, and the Virginia-based nonprofit group understands that the data it currently gathers is of little value. To address this problem, it announced in November 2019 that it plans to roll out a new, and far more vigorous, series of side-impact standards. The new test standards will see cars and pickup trucks crashed at higher speeds and into barriers that weigh significantly more. According to the IIHS, this will result in vehicles being subjected to accident forces that are up to 82% higher.
The reason side-impact car accidents are so deadly is because they often involve drivers who ignore red lights and fail to brake before colliding with another vehicle. When representing road users injured in such a crash, experienced personal injury attorneys may use police reports, witness statements and photographs taken by red light cameras to establish liability.