Modern cars crumple in an accident – why?
It is upsetting to drive past a car that’s crumpled like a tin can on the side of the road from a car accident. It makes you wonder how safe your car would be if it were involved in a similar situation. Of course, it would be wonderful to think our cars are rugged and tough enough to withstand a nuclear bomb, but as any vehicle service centre will tell you, this is not the case.
Most car manufacturers build strategic crumple zones into the front and back of motor vehicles to absorb the force of impact within the crumple zones. The middle (cabin) of the car, where the driver and passengers sit, is known as the safety cell, and the exact area that needs the most protection. When a crash happens, these crumple zones will do what they are designed for – lessen the impact on the safety cell while the front or rear will be severely damaged. To put it into perspective, a crumple zone can stop a car upon impact in 0.2 seconds as opposed to 0.1 seconds if the vehicle had no crumple zones. It reduces the force by 50%.
However, this is a delicate balancing act according to Richard Green, National Director of SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association) an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) who says, “On the one hand, a car’s frame has to be strong enough to resist a certain amount of force, but too much resistance may lead to injury for the car’s inhabitants. Getting this balance right means considering the size and weight of the vehicle. You also need to think about the force that may arise if a car collides with a moving object as opposed to a stationary one. All of these dynamics must be taken into account”.
Additionally, the driver and passengers are responsible for their safety within the vehicle too, such as wearing seatbelts. If wearing seatbelts is not a priority while travelling, the safety cell’s integrity depreciates, and unabsorbed force can still cause injury to the occupants. Remember seatbelts can save yours and your passengers’ lives so if they are in need of repair or a check, contact your local vehicle service centre for help.
If crumple zones are so effective, one can question why the entire vehicle is not a crumple zone. The reason is simple. The vehicle’s doors, ceilings, and floors create the safety cell and are far more rigid, and if these fold in onto occupants in the vehicle, it will lead to a tragic outcome. The driver and passengers are further protected by airbags which, like the crumple zones, are strategically placed within the vehicle to handle the force of impact and prevent the driver and passengers from colliding into the dashboard and steering wheel.
Next time you see a tin can car next to the road, you will know the chances are good that the occupants are safe. It is no heart-warming thought that your expensive vehicle is designed to crumple and will most likely be a write-off after a severe accident, but your safety comes first. If you are unsure whether your family car or fleet vehicles are indeed safe, contact your vehicle service centre for check-up and peace of mind.