The auto industry continues to take steps forward, sometimes big, sometimes small. They're tinkering with electric and driverless cars, and they're finding ways to improve the safety of everyday vehicles already on the road. How much incremental progress have we made? Just watch the video produced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A 2009 Chevy Malibu crashes into a colossal 1959 Chevy Bel Air at 40 miles per hour. And despite its "Safety-Girder" cruciform frame (a safety innovation Chevy developed during the 1950s) the bigger Bel Air didn't fare well at all. The same applies to the dummy inside.
Here’s how the Institute described what happened to the Bel Air to The New York Times:
This car had no seat belts or air bags. Dummy movement wasn’t well controlled, and there was far too much upward and rearward movement of the steering wheel. The dummy’s head struck the steering wheel rim and hub and then the roof and unpadded metal instrument panel to the left of the steering wheel.
During rebound, the dummy’s head remained in contact with the roof and slid rearward and somewhat inward. The windshield was completely dislodged from the car and the driver door opened during the crash, both presenting a risk of ejection. In addition, the front bench seat was torn away from the floor on the driver side.
The Bel Air got a "Poor" rating in every safety category; the Malibu a "Good."
Although a lot of America seems stuck in reverse, car design is one area where we're moving forward, hopefully with even better days to come.