Automotive safety is number one consideration for anyone planning to purchase a vehicle. Some of us consider too tiny cars unsafe because of the closeness of impact; just one consideration etcetera.
It’s common trend to hear people complain that newer vehicles are made of plastic and are therefore weaker and unsafe as compared to the older cars which were made of pure steel and/or tougher metal and therefore safer. Ever considered if this is true?
From experience with motor vehicles and a lot of classwork, I have learned that this is actually not true. Surprised? Still stuck to an older car because you thought it’s safer? Now, listen, older cars will come out of an accident looking quite fine but leave passengers dead; newer cars, on the other hand, will destroy themselves badly but interestingly, they will let you walk out unscathed.
This is how it works. The parts that used to be made of metal are now made of plastic. Similarly, the metal that was retained had to be made thinner. Ironically, these newer cars are actually safer than the older version!
Do you know why vehicles today are safer than the prestigious classics? Because today we use more of the brain than the brawl. Newer cars are designed using physics and technology. Older cars were simply iron cages.
How has safety been achieved?
Today, the vehicle structure is fashioned in a way that the chassis is integral with the body. This is known as a monocoque chassis construction. In simple terms, the framing of the car is integrated with the actual body. Therefore, it’s sort of a one-piece chassis rather than framing with the body bolted on top of the chassis. A chassis of this kind is more rigid, safer, and allows for creative techniques to be implemented.
Strength Gradient with a Crumple Zone
A clever gradient is integrated to the strength of the materials. This means that, the more you get into the car from front (and rear), the thicker the metal or materials you will find. It begins with aluminum, magnesium, and then thin steel, which then transitions into even more thicker steel. The final line of defense against an accident is the safety cage. Contrast this with the older cars which were purely safety cages. Check out our article on Safety Features of modern day cars (Body Modifications) for further reading.
Now, note that exterior materials are made purposely to crush in so as to absorb some impact from an accident. This is called the Crumple Zone. Every metal bents, plastics crumble and rubber gets pancaked absorbing the force of impact. This happens all the way up to the safety cage. Once the impact reaches the safety cage, the ultra high strength steel protects the passengers by blocking the mess from proceeding further. It now resists the crush because things have gotten too close to the passengers inside.
The crumple zone is the reason why we can now extend the time and magnitude of impact. It spreads out the deceleration. We know that passenger get killed from impact because of the sudden stop when a car hits a stationary object. If the car crushes and acts as a sponge, it makes the deceleration less more gradual. If the whole car was made of ultra high strength steel like the older models, it would stop abruptly as soon as it strikes an object. Remember, passengers will still be in motion. Can you guess where they will land?
This is what used to happen in the older cars. There was no crumpling and no reduction of speed. It used to be a very rugged and rough experience that would always lead to bad injury and/or death even though the car was left fine. Now you know that modern day vehicles are safer than older cars. Now, go out there and get yourself the latest model of car with a big smile on your face. Don’t forget to dispose of the junk you still stick to thinking that it’s safer!
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