Do We Need A Universal Bumper Height Standard

Just about everything to do with vehicle safety is regulated. From seat belts to side curtain airbags, everything must meet a minimum standard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helps to develop these safety standards. According to their website, "The NHTSA serves as the catalyst for addressing critical safety issues that affect the motor vehicle and highway safety communities.

" Yet it has failed to implement a critical safety standard; a universal bumper height standard that applies to passenger cars, SUV's, minivans, and light trucks. The current standard, which was last revised on May 14 1982, only applies to passenger cars.With SUV's and light trucks making up 3 of the 5 best selling vehicles in the United States, isn't it time our safety regulations are updated?.Decades ago universal bumper height wasn't a critical issue. Most vehicles were within a few inches of each other height wise, thus the bumpers were more or less lined up.

Today, with Escalades and Explorers sharing the roads with Escorts and Accents, it's just as likely that a car will be hit by a larger vehicle than one its own size.Most vehicles cover the actual bumper (comprised of foam and steel on most cars) with a plastic piece that better integrates with the exterior design. Pick-ups and some SUV's chrome the bumper. What we can't see is the complex engineering that's in place to distribute the force of an impact as evenly as possible across the crumple zones.These crumple zones absorb the impact with the intention of leaving the passenger compartment intact. Bumpers are designed to hit other bumpers, thus the crumple zones of both vehicles absorb the force of an accident.

Sensors for the airbags are also integrated into many bumpers.When a vehicle with a substantially higher bumper hits a lower vehicle from behind, the higher bumper hits the trunk of the lower vehicle, bypassing the bumper and parts of the crumple zone that are designed to fold in an accident.As such, more of the force reaches the passenger compartment. SUV's often weigh 50% more than an average car.

The added momentum can't be slowed down and absorbed by the car effectively if the SUV rides up on the hood or trunk.Many manufacturers have recognized the effects of when an SUV hits a lower car. The 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class was the first SUV to introduce "crash compatibility" to the SUV segment.

Unlike most sport utility vehicles, the M-Class frame was designed so that it was unlikely to override a passenger car's body structure in a collision.Critics see a problem with having a universal bumper height standard as it may reduce the approach and departure angles for some SUVs. These angles refer to a vehicle's ability to drive over an obstacle without damaging the front or rear bumpers.About 3% of SUV's are taken off road and virtually 100% of vehicles are used on the road; the priority should go to on road safety not off road convenience.

A universal bumper height standard makes sense for every driver out there.

.Peter Johnson writes for http://www.

By: Peter J.H. Johnson

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