ICBC rates rear-crash protection in 2007 cars

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VANCOUVER, April 30, 2007 – The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) recently released rear-crash protection ratings of 2007 model passenger cars. Only 40 per cent of current car models provide adequate protection from neck injury or whiplash. Seat/head restraint designs in 22 cars are rated good, but 59 other cars are rated marginal or poor.

“Whiplash is the most common type of injury in motor vehicle collisions,” said ICBC Vehicle Safety and Research Manager John Gane. “Studies show that vehicles with well-designed head restraints can reduce injuries in rear-impact crashes by 24-44 per cent. Drivers can help protect themselves from whiplash by buying safer vehicles, which also helps to minimize insurance claims costs”.

“Increases in catastrophic injuries are driving up claims costs in B.C., but less severe injuries are decreasing — partly due to auto manufacturers improving seat designs in response to insurer testing,” said Gane.

The best-rated 2007 vehicles include all Volvos, Audi A4, and A6, Ford Five Hundred/Mercury Montego, Nissan Sentra and Versa, Saab 9-3, and Subaru Impreza and Legacy Outback. Car buyers, however, should not equate price with safety, as many lower-priced vehicles get good ratings in these tests.

More vehicle manufacturers are designing safer seats, with seven designs earning better ratings compared with tests in 2004. Seat/head restraints improved from poor to good in the 2007 Audi A4, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Nissan Sentra. Seat/head restraints improved from acceptable to good in the 2007 Mercedes E Class, and Subaru Legacy/Outback.

Seat/head restraints in the Chrysler 300, Kia Amanti and Nissan Altima went from acceptable to poor ratings compared with earlier versions tested in 2004.

Tests were conducted by members of the International Insurance Whiplash Protection Group (IIWPG) at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety facilities in Virginia. Using the ICBC-developed Head Restraint Measuring Device, car seats are first measured for head restraint geometry. Seats with good or acceptable geometry are then subjected to a dynamic crash test that simulates a stopped vehicle being rear-impacted by another vehicle of the same weight going 32 km per hour. The results of these two tests are vehicle ratings of good, acceptable, marginal and poor.

About ICBC:

ICBC is a world leader in car safety research and, along with insurers in the U.K., U.S., Australia, Germany, Sweden, and Spain, is a member of the IIWPG. ICBC has been promoting better seat and head restraint design since 1993 to help reduce injuries and claims costs. ICBC has sold 175 of its B.C. designed and manufactured Head Restraint Measuring Devices to auto manufacturers worldwide to help them to develop safer seats. All cars sold in the U.S. will be required by regulation to use this technology starting in 2008. For more road safety tips, visit www.icbc.com.

Full results of these tests are at: http://www.icbc.com/inside_icbc/pdf/Rates_Rear_Crash_2007_background.pdf