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Survive Your Drive: Insurance Inst. For Highway Safety V.P. Discusses Crash Test Research

Aired August 25, 2000 - 1:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Of the tens of thousands of cars, trucks and SUVs that get smashed up in wrecks every year, a few get smashed on purpose. The goal is to make all vehicles safer.

And David Zuby has gotten it down to a science. Zuby is vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Ruckersville, Virginia.

Thanks so much for being with us, David.

DAVID ZUBY, INSURANCE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY: It's a pleasure to be here.

ALLEN: I know that it's a science, but, basically, bottom line is, your job is smashing up cars for a living, isn't that correct?

ZUBY: Yes, it's a very interesting job, but that is, in fact, the point: to run cars into walls and into each other to learn more about how the safety systems might better protect people in crashes.

ALLEN: And we're going to talk about that more specifically in a moment with that vehicle next to you, that you're going to explain what you've done to it. But, overall, how important is it to conduct these crash tests to get safety information?

ZUBY: Well, crash tests are important for a number of reasons. They're important to consumers, of course, because new cars can only be rated on how well they protect people by running crash tests. Another way to know how well cars protect people is by looking at the actual experience on the road, but that takes several years to accumulate enough data to be able to actually measure differences between cars.

So information about new cars can only come from crash tests. Crash tests are important to safety engineers in the auto industry, of course, because they actually have to run tests to make sure that the systems that they develop are doing the job as they're intended.

ALLEN: So explain to us the car that's next to you. What have you done to this and what are you trying to learn?

ZUBY: This is a Lincoln Town Car that we crashed as part of a demonstration of new side-impact protection technology. This car is equipped with a combination chest and head air bag that deploys in side-impact crashes to protect both the chest of a person and a person's head. I think we have some film of these tests wherein we crashed this car into a pole, sort of simulating what might happen on a road if a car slid off of the road and hit a tree.

We conducted two tests, one of a car that didn't have the air bag. And if you watch carefully, you can see that the dummy's head hits the pole. The dummies head hits the pole hard enough that the force would easily crush the skull of any human being. In a subsequent test with the car that I'm standing in front of, you can see that the air bag inserts itself between the dummy's head and the pole so that that blow against the pole is cushioned and the forces measured on the dummy's head are easily survivable.

ALLEN: So there have been probably major changes to cars due to these type tests, and I would think that safety bags have come about because of these type tests, is that right?

ZUBY: Yes, these types of tests are being used every day by auto manufacturers to test out systems like this. There are other examples of head protection systems like the air bag in this BMW 540, different from the air bag in the Lincoln Town Car, which was one air bag that protected both the chest and head. The BMW is equipped with an air bag that protects the head that comes down from the ceiling, and another air bag inside separate for the chest. We ran similar tests to those that we ran with the Lincoln on this car.

ALLEN: David Zuby, thanks so much. If that's not evidence that air bags are a good thing, I don't know what it. Thank you so much for joining us today.

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