Crash test: 1959 Chevy Bel Air
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a unique crash test to demonstrate the advances in motor vehicle safety over the last 50 years. In this test, a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu and a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air are both going 40 mph and the vehicles collide offset, driver side to driver side. This is the same crash configuration represented by the Institute’s 40 mph frontal offset barrier test, which is used to rate the frontal crash performance of new cars.
When I was a sophomore in college I was driving on I-64 in St. Louis on Christmas Eve around 3 am. It’s an 8 line highway with a concrete median. I was going about 60mph and crested a hill just in time to see headlights coming at me traveling at 85mph. I didn’t have hardly any time to react. This is how we hit. It was a kid from my school driving a GMC Jimmy the wrong direction down an interstate. I was driving my first car– a 1989 black Ford Taurus with airbags. My knee broke my dashboard in half. My car ended up on the side of the road. Three other cars came over the hill to hit the drunk’s car. I was miraculously uninjured despite a bruised knee and sore body.
The guy behind me was driving an old car like this, struck the Jimmy, and his engine was on his lap. I ran back to talk to him until the ambulance arrived. He just gurgled back at me. Fortunately, he survived.
So did the drunk. If the drunk could have walked, he would have walked away but couldn’t due to the alcohol.
I’m a lucky man to be alive. If it weren’t for modern safety engineering, well, there would be no Jay Parkinson. And 10 years after that happened, I started working for Ralph Nader…