Crash Testing

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					Crash Testing

        At the turn of the 20th century, and with the rising popularity of the automobile, the internal
combustion engine pulled itself into a position of dominance over steam and electric. By the Fifties cars
were a common sight- and so were car-related accidents.

        Though Crash testing had begun with General Motors’ 1934 barrier test, car safety features of
the times, such as padded dashboards and recessed controls, were considered a luxury. For owners of
popular Fifties models like the 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air, you could expect a stylish set of wheels that
looked like nothing else on the road. Woe Betide anyone who had an accident in it though: with no
seatbelts or other safety features, all occupants were left at the mercy of fate. For most car
manufactures, safety took the proverbial back sear, so crumple zones and other energy-absorbing
features mandatory in the design of today’s car simply didn’t exist. A 64-kilometre (40-mile)-per-hour,
head-on collision would often see the Bel Air’s body crumple, the driver-side door fly open and the
steering column punch into the driver as the front end concertinaed.

         As a result of the increasing number of cars on the road, the last half-century has seen car safety
take a higher priority in the automobile industry. It’s primarily been driven by legislative measures to
decrease road traffic collision fatalities, rather than particular demand by consumers. Because history
has shown that although we are becoming more safety conscious, we tend to buy fast, powerful, stylish,
cheap and practical before safe. After all, we’re planning on using our cars to take us to work, pick the
kids up from school or go for day trips, and ploughing into another vehicle doesn’t really factor in to our

         NCAP (the New Car Assessment Program) and Euro NCAP are the government-backed car safety
evaluation schemes for the US and Europe, respectively. The Ford test centre in Merkenich, Germany,
includes a 100-metre (329-foot) runway along which a sled on wheels, representing an oncoming
vehicle, is propelled into the test car and then photographed with a high-speed camera at 1,000 frames
per second, for experts to later examine. NCAP tests for a variety of low to medium-speed collisions,
including potentially deadly car-to-car, side-impact collision at 50 kilometres (31 miles) per hour that the
new Ford B-Max-one of the safest car in the world currently-excelled at.

         Centres like this run tests on whiplash, seatbelt protection assessment and stressing the
computer-controlled safety measures common in modern cars, such as electronic stability control. It’s
not all about the occupants either; Euro NCAP has made its pedestrian safety score an integral part of its
rating. This is based on protection a car affords to the most vulnerable areas of a pedestrian- the legs
and head- on being struck at 40 kilometres (25 miles) per hour.

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