Crumple Zones Have Saved Lives Since the 1950s
Cars used to be built with a stiff, solid outer structure that stood up to serious impacts. It was not until 1952 that Mercedes Benz began introducing vehicles with purposefully weakened outer shells to reduce injuries for occupants. This idea became known as the crumple zone, which saves lives by absorbing the impact instead of transferring it throughout the vehicle and to the passengers. There are 5.5 million traffic accidents annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration and 2.3 million people are seriously injured in those accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By introducing safety features such as seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and crumple zones, countless lives are saved and injuries decreased.
Extending the Time of Deceleration Disperses Energy More Slowly
All modern vehicles have crumple zones in the front, which is the most important part of a car, SUV, or pickup to have it. However, some manufacturers have expanded upon the idea of front end crumple zones and have introduced rear and side crumple zones into modern vehicles as well. But for the sake of simplicity, in the following example of how crumple zones work, we will be looking at front end crumple zones.
Crumple zones work by decreasing the force upon collision and also by distributing it among the outer shell of the vehicle instead of evenly distributing it throughout the passenger cabin. Force, as you may recall from school, is Mass times Acceleration. In this case, it is deceleration that we are really thinking about. If a vehicle goes from 60 miles per hour to zero in 0.2 seconds, there is a lot of force to be dealt with and quite likely serious implications for the occupants of that vehicle. However, if the time to decelerate is doubled, the force is cut in half, meaning there would be less impact for the occupants. To double the time of deceleration (going from 0.2 seconds to 0.4 seconds), the front end of the vehicle is designed to crumple and stop the vehicle more slowly. Another way to picture this is to imagine you are strapped into a metal ball that is dropped to the ground from 20 feet up. The jolt you would receive would be horrific. Now imagine being strapped inside a rubber ball. The rubber ball would hit the ground and decelerate more slowly by absorbing the energy of the fall and you would not feel the same crippling jolt that you would in the rigid metal ball.
Crumple Zone Design
In order for the front end of a car to absorb the impact, it must be designed to deteriorate. Specific parts of the frame are designed to be weak and give in under pressure, while the inner cabin of the car, where the occupants sit, remains rigid to resist deformation. According to the Washington Post, 1.7 million rear end collisions occur every year, which is why rear crumple zones are also used to decrease trauma from behind. Some vehicles even have side crumple zone technology, which, combined with curtain airbags, greatly reduces injuries in side-impact collisions. However, no matter the safety features of modern vehicles, hundreds of thousands of people are critically injured in accidents every year. If you have been injured in an auto collision, contact an experienced car accident attorney today.