Although the Covid-19 pandemic may be causing Americans to drive less, many of those who do get behind the wheel are apparently driving faster. NHTSA shows a median 22% increase in speeds in select US metro areas in 2020 compared to 2019. AAA cautions drivers that slightly higher speeds reduce the effectiveness of safety equipment and increase the driver's risk of severe injury or death.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a new crash test study with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Humanetics, to demonstrate the dangers of going fast. AAA-The Auto Club Group provided funding for the crash test research. Read the full report.
Crashes were conducted at three different impact speeds (40, 50 and 56 mph).
Three 2010 Honda CR-V EX crossovers were used in the crash tests, because they represented the average age (11.8 years) of a typical vehicle on U.S. roadways and earned the top rating in the IIHS moderate overlap front test.
Researchers found more structural damage and greater forces on the dummy's entire body.
At the 40 mph impact speed, there was minimal intrusion into the driver's space. But at the 50 mph impact speed, there was noticeable deformation of the driver side door opening, the dashboard and the foot area.
At 56 mph, the vehicle interior was significantly compromised, with the dummy's sensors registering severe neck injuries and a likelihood of fractures to the long bones in the lower leg.
At both 50 and 56 mph, the steering wheel's upward movement caused the dummy's head to go through the deployed airbag. This caused the face to smash into the steering wheel. Measurements taken from the dummy showed a high risk of facial fractures and severe brain injury.
“A speeding driver may arrive at their destination a few minutes faster, but the tradeoff of getting severely injured or even losing one's life is not worth the risk," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.
"Higher speed limits cancel out the benefits of vehicle safety improvements like airbags and improved structural designs," said Dr. David Harkey, IIHS president. "The faster a driver is going before a crash, the less likely it is that they'll be able to get down to a survivable speed even if they have a chance to brake before impact."
In Florida, the maximum posted speed limits are 70 mph on rural interstates and other limited access roads, and 65 mph on urban interstates and other roads. AAA urges drivers to understand the risks of the speed they are driving.
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About the research testing:
The research tests were conducted following the same protocol that is used for the IIHS moderate overlap evaluation; only the speed was varied. With a test dummy representing an average-sized male in the driver's seat, the cars were crashed with 40 percent of the vehicle's front on the driver side overlapping the barrier.
IIHS has been conducting this type of test, which simulates a head-on, partial-overlap impact between two vehicles of the same weight and size traveling at the same speed, since 1995. Since 2013, 100 percent of new vehicles have earned a good rating when tested at the 40 mph impact speed.
Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by researching their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research develops educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users.