IIHS reports that bumpers aren't up to the task
And apparently they aren't even doing as good a job as a 1981 Ford Escort. That model was chosen because it is indicative of the kind of bumpers required in the pre-Reagan-era 5 mph crash standards. Reagan rolled back the standard to 2.5 mph starting in 1982 and since then, bumpers have never been the same. The test itself changed a couple of times and now the IIHS is using a three and six mph battery of tests that tries to approximate the kinds of front and rear impacts that are the most common in the real world. They state that these low speed impacts, with sub $4,500 insurance claims, end up accounting for more than $6 billion in claims each year. Newer auto designs, particularly in the bumpers, often lead to mismatched bumper heights in collisions. If the impact isn't a straight bumper-on-bumper affair, one vehicle's bumper will often over- or under-ride the other's, striking the other vehicle's grille and/or lights, which are more expensive to repair. The full report explains the testing procedures more thoroughly and gives a detailed analysis of the costs incurred by each of the tested cars. Total combined damage for the four tests ranged from $4,277 for the Mitsubishi Galant, to more than $9,000 for the VW Jetta and Nissan Maxima.
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