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Crash tests bring about safer new cars

Wednesday, March 12, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

I learned a lot from an expert today about avoiding and surviving car crashes.
   You’ve seen those crash tests on TV, where scientists place dummies in cars that crash into walls and other vehicles, right? Studying those crashes tells us how to build stronger, safer cars, and the leading researcher in that field is the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
   We’re hosting Adrian Lund, IIHS’s president, at PEMCO this week.  He’s sharing the latest findings and trends, especially about crash-avoidance technology.
   Motor Trend recently named Lund (left) to its “2014 Power List” that comprises “the most influential people in the automotive world.” He calls himself a behavioral scientist, and he notes several innovations and trends that bode well for highway safety.
   Those innovations include optional features like electronic stability control, rear-view cameras, automatic parking, and adaptive headlights.
   The one that intrigues me is forward-collision warning, which can prevent rear-end crashes. Rear-enders are pretty common, and there’s risk of injury even with a decent head restraint.
   The challenge, Lund said, is that if forward-collision warning became mandated today, about 20 years would pass before it permeated 95% of cars on the road. IIHS projects that with a 2015 mandate, 95% of registered vehicles would have forward-collision warning by the year 2035.
   Other behavioral scientists might push that out even further. Anna Liotta, a generational expert (author of Unlocking Generational Codes), notes that many Baby Boomers express their identities through the cars they drive. It’s not uncommon for them to buy a new car every two or three years, whereas people born from 1978-1999, often called Millennials, tend to keep cars a long time or shun cars and opt for alternative transportation. They’re more likely to express themselves through unique iPhone covers than through cars.
   If that trend of hanging onto cars for a long time plays out in the marketplace, the time frame for new technology to permeate our nation’s “fleet” could stretch beyond 2035.
   Regardless, automakers are developing cool stuff to make our cars and roads safer. And it’s exciting to support IIHS, which is dedicated to one basic goal: reduce crash deaths, injuries, and crunched cars.

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