10 Scary Crash Tests: Safety Systems Really Matter

A variety of organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the NHTSA routinely perform crash tests on vehicles to test them for safety. Crash dummies are used to see how the crash affects the driver and passengers. Crash tests are often performed by car manufacturers to see where the car design needs to be improved—and when it does, the results can be a little scary. Let’s take a look at ten terrifying crash tests to see how the cars involved fared—and what that means for us drivers.

1. 2009 Chevrolet Malibu vs. 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air

Still think “solid” old cars are safer than new cars? In this crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air was pitted against a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. The test had the 2009 Malibu hitting the front left half of the Bel Air in a head-on collision. The front end of both cars instantly crumpled, with the hoods buckling and parts coming loose. The driver’s side door of the Bel Air came loose.

The Bel Air appeared to have more interior damage than did the Malibu, although exterior damage was about equal. However, airbags and the Malibu’s crumple zone protected the driver even though the exterior was damaged. Neither driver was ejected from either car, but the airbag inflated into the Malibu driver’s face. On a real person, this would have likely caused severe bruising, but it kept the driver’s head and face from hitting the steering wheel. In the Bel Air, the dash was crushed into the driver’s legs. That’s scary. Both cars were totaled, but new cars are designed to break apart in a way that protects the person inside—we’ll take the Malibu.