Even though you always want to avoid car accidents, they are sometimes beyond your control. When accidents happen, you’ll want a safe car that is well-built to protect its passengers. This is where crashworthiness comes into play. Crashworthiness is a standard measure for how safe a car is during a crash.
Crashworthiness was designed not just as a way to measure how safe a car is, but also to make car companies more aware of safety and to value safety in general. A person is much more likely to buy a car that is proven safer in crashworthiness tests than one that is much less safe. This helps auto manufacturers be more competitive and also reduces the amount of serious or fatal crashes to the travelling public.
There are a few different rating boards that determine a car’s crashworthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates cars based on high-speed front and side-impact crash tests, roof strength tests, and seat belt and head restraint evaluations. It then designates them as good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. The New Car Assessment Program also rates cars based on front, side, and rollover crashes.
Crashworthiness is about what happens in the moments after an initial impact. Although lessening the impact is a big part of crashworthiness, it mostly covers how the bodies of the car’s occupants react to the crash and what parts of the inside of the car they hit. Crashworthiness features that help lessen or remove the impact people have with the inside of their cars are airbags, seat belts, head restraints, and crumple zones.
In the case of a defect, such as GM’s ignition switches, one or more of these features could be disabled or malfunction. If a feature is present and doesn’t activate or doesn’t work properly, then a legal case may be made based on the (lack of) crashworthiness of your vehicle. A legal claim based on crashworthiness often has little to do with the cause of the accident, focusing more on the failed safety features of the vehicle.