Automobile designs continue to cause costly damage in low-speed crashes despite the passage five years ago of a law intended to compel adoption of damage-resistant bumpers, the House Commerce Consumer Protection and Finance Subcommittee was told yesterday.
The evidence came from filmed crash tests of 1977 models conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit industry group.
Institute vice president Benjamin Kelley said that "damage of a kind never before seen" was suffered by a full-size Chevrolet, an Impala, that crashed at 10 miles per hour into a all angled at 30 degrees to the car's front. The damage, shown in a screening of the film: the roof buckled.
The total repair bill - based on an hourly labor rate of $11 - was $928.
Kelley said that to an extent not previously found in institute tests, doors on some cars jammed closed in low-speed frontal crashes. In some cases, this could seal occupants inside so they could not escape quickly in event of fire or other emergency.
He said this happened when a Ford LTD crashed at 5 mph into a wall at an angle; when a Plymouth Gran Furry, a Ford LTD, a Ford Pinto and a Chevette had frontal angle crashes at 10 mph, an when a Ford LTD four-door sedan crashed head-on at 10 mph.
In the last case, Kelley said, the front doors of the LTD - a rival to the Impala and Caprice - jammed. The repair bill was $978, including $292 for fixing the doors.
In contrast, Kelley testified, the doors of a 1975 Volvo, in earlier test, didn't jam in a 35 mph frontal crash.
Other test highlights:
In 16 crashes in which a car rammed into the rear of an identical auto at 10 mph, the costs for repairs to both vehicles ranged from $4.40 for the Honda Civic CVCC to $594 - 135 times as much - for the Plymouth Gran Fury.
In 5 mph frontal angle crashes five models, the range was $397 for a Chevrolet Vega to $686 for the Ford LTD.
In 16 similar crashes at 10 mph, into a wall, the range - among 16 models - was from $98 for a Chevelle to $437 for a Datsun B210.
In 16 similar crashes at 10 mph, the range was $458 for a Honda Civic CVCC to $928 for an Impala.
Kelley said that the Department of Transportation has not fulfilled the mandate of a 1972 law for a standard under which bumper would have to reduce property damage in low-speed crashes, front or rear. The department said in February, 1976, that the standard would take effect, in two stages, in the 1979 and 1980 model years.
He also showed films of frontal crashes at 5 mph with 1977 AMC Gremlins. One, equipped with a standard bumper, cost $236 to repair: another, equipped with a prototype bumper developed in less then eight weeks by Tayco Developments, Inc., cost zero - at 7 mph as well as 5 mph.
The institute listed the following repair costs:
Frontal, into a wall at a 30-degree angle, 5 mph and, in parentheses, 10 mph: