Hamilton Transportation & Cars Research - Small Car Safety Improvements
Passenger safety has been a key car-buying decision metric for the past few decades, so automakers responded by making cars and trucks much safer today than they were a decade or two ago.
The sub-compact car segment that has especially benefited from this improvement, which is especially good as more buyers are shopping for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. This is also the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. auto industry, growing 12 percent annually. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that over the past decade, the death rate in the smallest cars on the road has dropped to 106 per million registered vehicles, a significant drop from the 165 per million in 1996. The IIHS is a non-profit group, that is funded by auto insurers to conduct research to reduce and/or prevent damage, injuries and deaths in auto accidents.
Front Crash Protection
Crash testing conducted by us and by the National Highway Transportation & Safety Administration (NHTSA -- a division of the Department of Transportation) has led automakers to improve the structural design of the passenger compartment, so there is less 'intrusion' into the compartment in a crash. As well all, all small cars now have front air bags, and many have side air bags with head protection, and many are adding electronic stability control. As a result, 14 of the 17 top-selling small cars receive "good" frontal crash test ratings from IIHS
IIHS uses a different system of rating vehicles' crash-test results than NHTSA, and the IIHS has noted improvement in small-car safety by comparing some current models to older models from the same car maker.
Protection in Car-truck crashes
A couple of years ago, automakers also adopted an initiative that will improve the safety for small-car drivers by agreeing to build trucks and SUVs with lower front ends. Since trucks ride higher than cars, they are inherently more dangerous to passengers in smaller cars in the event of an accident. Soon, light trucks are built with lower structures, to the front end of the truck will hit the bumper or door sill of the car, instead of the passenger compartment which made passengers vulnerable to injury."
But, even though small cars have made big safety gains, it is true that big vehicles are still safer than small ones. The risk of dying in the smallest car is about double the risk in the largest car, but the safety in the smallest cars is so much safer than 10 years ago."