Tuesday, 20 November 2007

New versus Old

Flipping through the TV channels last night, I came across an edition of Fifth Gear which really got me thinking. One of the items was a staged crash, virtually head-on, between a J reg Volvo 940 Estate weighing one and a half tons and a two year old Renault Modus. The Volvo was known as a safe car when it was on sale, and the Modus is the first small car to score 5 in the NCAP safety programme. The cars were crashed together at a speed of 80 mph. We viewers were asked to choose which car we would want to be in, together with a loved one, at the time of the crash. The presenter explained that the experts on the site were not at all sure of the outcome. Being a big believer in technology, I plumped for the Renault, but this was a decision I took with my head. My emotions told me that the much bigger and heavier Volvo was the place to be. The tension was rising (not helped by the obligatory commercial break) and then the crash was shown. The story is here.

I for one was amazed at the outcome. The Modus's structure dissipated all the energy and the cabin remain more or less intact. The door still opened. The crash was staged so that the drivers were facing each other at the time of the impact. The right hand front of the Volvo was completely stoved in, and the right front wheel was in the drivers footwell. The Vovlo's dashboard had deformed badly and the dummy's legs were trapped and crushed. It was pointed out that with no air bags, the drivers head had probably hit the middle of the steering wheel, causing head injuries.

The little Modus had fared much better. The airbags had all gone off, the dash was still intact and, more or less, in place, and the drivers footwell was barely damaged. The airbags had prevented the driver's and passenger's head hitting anything, and they could both, probably have walked away from the crash.

A big lesson is that a newer car with a high score in the NCAP tests is going to protect you a lot more than a big old one.

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