Maryland SUV and Car Crash Safety: Insurance Institute Pushes for Standard Bumper Heights

Remember when the only people who drove pickup trucks in Maryland were farmers, construction workers, and other working people with loads to haul? That was back when a family-sized vehicle was called a station wagon — and modern innovations such as all-wheel drive, GPS navigation, and onboard entertainment systems weren’t even on the drawing board.

Fast forward a couple decades down the road, where more and more Americans started feeling like they too should be driving a truck, or something of that stature. Something that would be a presence on the road. Enter the sport utility vehicle or SUV. Now seems like practically every other car on the road is an SUV. SUVs of every shape, size, and color. Some the size of tanks (the Hummer, for example). The size is what’s causing headaches for the insurance industry — and for consumers who find even minor fender benders can be costly, in dollars and injuries.

As an experienced Baltimore SUV accident injury lawyer knows from work with injured clients — when an SUV is involved in a traffic accident with a car in Maryland, the smaller vehicle tends to be on the losing end. One of the problems, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is the mismatched bumper heights.

In the past, when two cars had a minor fender bender, usually no one got badly hurt, and a trip to the auto body shop made the bumper good as new. Now, when an SUV, light truck, or minivan rear-ends or front-ends a smaller automobile, there’s greater potential for serious damage to both vehicles and injury to their occupants. Mismatched bumper heights means the bumpers can’t perform the job they were made to do, which is absorb impact when traffic accidents occur and, as the IIHS states, “keep damage away from safety-related equipment such as headlights and taillights and protect vehicle parts such as hoods, fenders, and exhaust and cooling systems…” which are more expensive to repair.

The IIHS has been working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for years to “…amend Part 581 Bumper Standard to extend applicability to light trucks, vans, and multipurpose passenger vehicles.” Writes the IIHS: “Vehicles should not need to be towed away after a 10 mph impact, and this outcome is a direct result of bumper mismatch.” IIHS says minor low-speed accidents can end up costing consumers and their insurance companies thousands of dollars — an expense that could be avoided if bumper height standards extended to SUVs and other large vehicles. (See link to latest report and crash tests below.)

It’s unclear how auto manufacturers would respond to any new regulations, given the enormous variety of vehicle makes and models on the market today.

Sources:

IIHS Status Report: Bumper Mismatch Is Still a Problem (PDF)

IIHS Q&A: Bumpers

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Blog Article:
Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 1): Bodily Injury