Video: Size matters - in crashes

Dateline NBC
updated 6/19/2005 11:48:14 PM ET 2005-06-20T03:48:14

You see it coming and it's terrifying: the high speed, head-on crash. You'd think you'd be safer in a large car, surrounded by all that muscle. But are you? We’ll see how some new and redesigned passenger cars do in a brand new crash test.

Brian O'Neill: “They're very violent, very serious crashes.”

High speed frontal accidents, like those being tested at 40 miles per hour, are among the deadliest out there. But with today's technology, you should be able to walk away from them with no significant injuries.

Brian O'Neill runs the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit group funded by insurance companies looking to improve safety and reduce claims. The Institute buys cars right off dealer's lots and replicates what might happen if two identical cars run into each other.

All cars sold today must pass a battery of government crash tests but this one is more severe. For the first time, we have an exclusive look at the crash results of eight large passenger cars. They're big and heavy, but will they fare well in this test?

First up are the 2006 Lexus GS 300, the 2005 Ford 500, also sold by Mercury as the Montego. and GM's 2005 Buick Lacrosse, which is structurally similar to the Pontiac Grand Prix.

On all three cars, the safety cage surrounding the driver holds up well and that allows the seat belts and airbags to do their job. A driver in all three of these cars really could open the door and walk away. They get the best rating the Institute has to offer, a good and a best pick.

Next, two more large cars that are redesigns this year, the 2005 Acura RL – it’s a good and best pick – and the 2005 Toyota Avalon.

O'Neill: “The structure holds together very well. We have very little intrusion into the compartment.”

It's another good performer and best pick.

The 2005 KIA Amanti is from Korea. The dummy in the KIA records a possible leg injury, not severe, but enough to keep the Institute from giving the Amanti a best pick. It rates a good.

Two other cars also get goods and best picks, the 2005 Cadillac STS.

O'Neill: “Another good performer. Another vehicle with very good structure.”

Then there is the 2005 Chrysler 300, also structurally similar to the 2006 Dodge Charger.

O'Neill: “Very good structure, the compartment is intact. This means that people inside this space can be protected in very serious crashes.”

To recap, every large car in this round of tests is rated good. The only one that didn't get a "best pick" was the KIA Amanti. KIA tells dateline it's "disappointed," but "confident" that the Amanti is a "safe vehicle."

Lea Thompson: “Brian, every single large car that you have tested now gets a good or a best pick. Is it time to sort of hang this one up and move on to other things?”

O'Neill: “We're getting very close. There are still a few designs out there that need to be improved. As they get replaced with new designs, it will be time to declare victory.”

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