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How car crumple zones help you survive a crash

You cannot predict what that SUV speeding toward the intersection you are about to enter will do. You have the light, but the SUV is not slowing down.

This looks like the perfect setting for a T-bone crash, but the crumple zones built into your late-model sedan will distribute the force of impact and help you survive.

Tests for crashworthiness

The structure of a vehicle and its restraints, such as seat belts, are the main components in determining the level of crashworthiness. You want a strong compartment for the occupants of your sedan, plus well-designed crumple zones to absorb the impact of a collision. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts tests about the crashworthiness of individual makes and models and informs the public of its top picks.

The value of crumple zones

In a car crash, intense kinetic force is present. The primary job of a crumple zone is to redistribute dangerous force and direct it away from the driver and passengers. The passenger compartment is a rigid structure, but the design of certain areas within allows them to be crushed, broken or crumpled.

Different designs

In standard vehicles, certain parts of a passenger compartment frame collapse in on themselves during a collision. Advanced designs include different kinds of metals along with other materials that absorb a great deal of kinetic energy. A honeycomb design, stiff under normal conditions, will crumple in a crash experienced by the driver of a high-performance car.

Striking a balance

In designing safer vehicles, engineers must strike a balance between too much resistance to an impact and too little. Crumple zone designs depend on the speed and mass of a vehicle versus the speed and mass of the object it hits. That SUV speeding toward the intersection will expend more force in a crash than your sedan would. Fortunately, you are driving a newer car with the latest innovations in crumple zone technology. At the moment of impact, that technology goes to work and does its best to protect you and your passengers from serious injury.

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