We're all well aware of the video released recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You know the one. Modern Chevy Malibu versus vintage Chevy Bel Air. Crash test. The results speak for themselves (see the video again after the jump). The two cars, one a 1959 model and the other from 2009, illustrate exactly how far vehicle safety has come in the 50 years since the IIHS was founded. There are two others dates you should know. 1972 was when the IIHS launched the Highway Loss Data Institute and began collecting objective data on insurance losses. The other date is 1992 when the Vehicle Research Center was opened and the IIHS began crashing cars.
In addition to the aforementioned video, the IIHS has also just released a gallery of images, before and after if you will, of the two cars involved in the celebratory crash. Note the passenger compartment of the '09 Malibu, which stays completely intact, versus the Bel Air that crumbles like a cereal box. Thanks for the tip, Derrick!
In the 50 years since US insurers organized the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, car crashworthiness has improved. Demonstrating this was a crash test conducted on Sept. 9 between a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. In a real-world collision similar to this test, occupants of the new model would fare much better than in the vintage Chevy.
"It was night and day, the difference in occupant protection," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "What this test shows is that automakers don't build cars like they used to. They build them better."
The crash test was conducted at an event to celebrate the contributions of auto insurers to highway safety progress over 50 years. Beginning with the Institute's 1959 founding, insurers have maintained the resolve, articulated in the 1950s, to "conduct, sponsor, and encourage programs designed to aid in the conservation and preservation of life and property from the hazards of highway accidents."
A decade after the Institute was founded, insurers directed this organization to begin collecting data on crashes and the cost of repairing vehicles damaged in crashes. To lead this work and the Institute's expanded research program, insurers named a new president, William Haddon Jr., who already was a pioneer in the field of highway safety. In welcoming Dr. Haddon, Thomas Morrill of State Farm said "the ability to bring unbiased scientific data to the table is extremely valuable." This scientific approach, ushered in by Dr. Haddon, is a hallmark of Institute work. It's why the Institute launched the Highway Loss Data Institute in 1972 - to collect and analyze insurance loss results to provide consumers with model-by-model comparisons.
Another Institute milestone was the 1992 opening of the Vehicle Research Center. Since then, the Institute has conducted much of the research that has contributed to safer vehicles on US roads. At the anniversary event, current Institute chairman Gregory Ostergren of American National Property and Casualty summed up a commitment to continue what fellow insurers began in 1959: "On this golden anniversary of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, we celebrate this organization's accomplishments toward safer drivers, vehicles, and roadways. We salute the vision of the Institute's founders and proudly continue their commitment to highway safety."