The National Safety Council (NSC) has declared June National Safety Month. As most people do, we usually worry about things that are beyond our control or have a minimal chance of ever happening to us like a plane crash or being struck by lightning. According to the NSC, motor vehicle crashes claimed more than 35,000 lives in 2011 alone. You are more likely to be injured than a car crash than a freak accident, so it is important to choose a vehicle that can protect you from harm.
Enter safety ratings…we know they are important, but there’s a lot of information out there so how do you decide which vehicles are the safest? Two organizations conduct crash tests on new vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They each do different tests; NHTSA has the five-star safety ratings program and is the only organization that rates rollover resistance, in addition to front and side crashworthiness. IIHS evaluates two aspects of safety: crashworthiness (how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash) and crash avoidance and mitigation. Autotrader discusses the differences between NHTSA and IIHS further in this article.
At SMDI, we are most concerned with crashworthiness, especially front and side-impact crashes that are responsible for the highest percentage of automotive-related deaths and serious injuries. Steel is the leading material used in auto bodies and safety cages because its superior strength, durability and cost-effective performance help protect drivers and their families when accidents occur.
Steel industry surveys show that consumers understand the importance of steel in automotive safety. When asked which automobile components protect themselves and their family in a car, the respondents’ top three choices have been seat belts, steel frames (the steel safety cage) and steel side-impact beams (placed inside car doors to better protect passengers in side-impact collisions).
You may already know that a steel frame is important to vehicle safety, but more so when purchasing a used vehicle. It’s important to know the history of a used vehicle and whether it’s had any structural damage from previous accidents. Sometimes people will return these vehicles to the road without properly repairing them. Structural damage and weaknesses can make a vehicle behave unpredictably if it is involved in another crash making it unsafe for passengers and can cause the airbags to deploy at the wrong time. CarFax shares a detailed guide on what to look for in a steel frame in this article.
Auto and driver safety are priorities as the steel industry strives to make the nation’s roads safer for the future. We look at steel in a vehicle as the consumer’s “last line of defense” in the event of an accident. Through safety information and education efforts, we hope they never have to use it.