While we have a government agency tasked with vehicle safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), no institution proves the theory that the free market pushes trends and change more than top down edicts from Washington.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a private organization funded by insurance companies, own research and testing has arguably done more to push automobile manufacturers into designing safer cars than any government regulation.
This is because the IIHS and automakers are driven by profits. The insurance companies want less expensive claims, less losses in both human and metal tragedy which translate to cost. Automakers want their cars to insure for less and win prestigious safety awards.
Because both sides are motivated to perform, the IIHS has enacted far stricter crash tests than NHTSA ever dreamed of, aimed at showing automakers where their weak spots are. Several years ago for instance, the IIHS began their moderate frontal offset test which changed the way automakers design their cars.
The test showed consumers in graphic detail how unsafe their cars actually were, and smart automakers rushed to the drawing boards to change their designs. Enter this year the new small offset frontal crash test. This wicked new test is again showing how bad we didn’t know we had it.
The majority of 2013 vehicles tested so far have fared badly in this new test, with a small few actually performing “good”. The tests have shown that cost of the vehicle is no factor either, as many luxury brands have done horridly.
This video piece from the IIHS illustrates this in a way that words cannot. Interestingly enough at the end of the video, the engineer states ominously that some automakers aren’t designing for the small-offset frontal crash test……yet.
Bottom line is that the automakers and the insurance industry are far more adept at seeing the engineering and financial toll that unsafe cars than some bureaucrat in Washington who is busy planning their team building convention in Miami.