Insurance Crash Test Videos Becoming Popular on the Internet

By | August 24, 2007

Jarring images of vehicles crashing into test barriers are becoming more prevalent on the Internet, giving safety-conscious car shoppers another tool when searching for the right car.

Consumer Reports now offers a library of crash test videos for more than 200 vehicles on its Web site, letting buyers watch the tests while considering which car to buy. The tests were conducted by the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which issues safety ratings for vehicles.

“It’s hard to believe anyone watching any of these videos wouldn’t make safety a No. 1 priority for themselves when car shopping,” said Jeff Bartlett, the deputy autos editor for www.ConsumerReports.org.

Car buyers can also find similar crash test videos in the autos section of Microsoft Corp.’s MSN.com, along with footage from test drives and auto shows.

Bartlett said the videos on Consumer’s Web site “bring our ratings to life” and are accompanied by a narration describing how each vehicle performed in front-end and side tests. The videos are available for vehicles dating back to some late 1990s model years.

Crash test videos are commonly aired in news reports about vehicle safety and were once a fixture on NBC’s “Dateline NBC.” But their shock value has also entered advertising and the Internet.

Volkswagen AG garnered attention last year for its dramatic “Safe Happens” advertising campaign, which showed motorists surviving violent, full-speed crashes. On YouTube, hundreds of thousands of viewers have watched footage of a Chinese-built Chery Amulet being pulverized in a Russian crash test.

Automakers say the videos could serve as another resource for shoppers but caution that the images may not give the full story of a car’s safety, which is summarized in government ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or by the Insurance Institute.

Industry officials noted a vehicle’s safety qualities could be affected by a number of factors, including the type of crash, speed and road conditions.

“It’s the results of the crash tests that are most important,” said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Bill Kwong, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Corp., said without accompanying test data, the videos fail to give consumers specific information about how well it would protect the driver in a crash.

“You won’t be able to tell a 3-star from a 5-star from the video,” Kwong said, referring to NHTSA’s “Stars on Cars’ system which rates vehicles from one to five stars.

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On the Net:

Consumer Reports: www.ConsumerReports.org/crashtest

MSN’s Autos: http://autos.msn.com/default.aspx

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org

NHTSA’s Crash Test Ratings: http://www.safercar.gov

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