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Saturday, April 26, 2008
Safety Improvements Made by Mid-Size Cars
According to automobile insurance industry reports, standard air bags and improved designs have enabled several mid-size cars have to strides in protecting motorists in side crashes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released crash results that gave top scores in front-end and side-impact crashes to the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura, Dodge Avenger, Nissan Altima, Infiniti G35 and Mitsubishi Galant. The highest score in front-end tests and the second-highest score in the side test were earned by the 2008 Kia Optima.
The Institute's senior vice president, David Zuby, said 10 similar vehicles tested in 2004 without side air bags garnered the lowest rating of "poor" in the side tests. Only earlier generations of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu earned best scores in 2004 when they were tested with side air bags.
"The side impact results represent a huge change from just four years ago," Zuby said.
In rear-end testing, the results were a mixed bag. The only vehicle tested to receive a top rating was the Optima, followed by the Avenger, which earned the second-highest score of "acceptable."
Four of the vehicles: the G35, Altima, Malibu, and Aura, earned the second-lowest score of "marginal," while the Galant garnered the lowest rating of "poor." Rear crashes, which often result in neck injuries, chalk up 2 million insurance claims a year costing at least $8.5 billion.
Mitsubishi spokesman Dan Irvin said the Galant complies with all federal safety standards, and the manufacturer "continuously strives to improve the safety performance of our vehicles."
General Motors Corp. spokeswoman Carolyn Markey said the rear tests were one measure of crash performance and their vehicles' head restraints were engineered "to accommodate a variety of drivers."
Alex Fedorak, a Kia spokesman, said the automaker had a "strong safety record" and pointed out the fact that the IIHS has said its side-impact test simulates severe crash conditions.
Chrysler's priority "continues to be designing vehicles that perform safely for our customers and their families in 'everyday' driving conditions," according to spokesman Max Gates.
According to Zuby, side air bags were largely optional equipment when the institute conducted the tests in 2004. But in all seven of the 2008 vehicles the institute reviewed, side air bags are standard.
The institute's frontal crash test simulates a 40 mph crash and its effect on the driver, while the rear test replicates a 20 mph test. The side crash simulates what would happen if the vehicle was struck in the side at 31 mph by a sport utility vehicle. The side crash test employs dummies in both the front and rear seats.
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