On 25 Feb 2010, we were invited by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) to witness the country’s first full-scale passenger car outdoor crash test at the UniKL-Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology (MIAT) in Dengkil, Selangor. The test saw a Perodua Alza MPV, loaded with four crash test dummies, slammed into the rear end of a stationary trailer at 30kph.
The three objectives of the test were to evaluate the performance of energy absorbing under-run protection devices on commercial vehicles in rear-end collisions; to analyze the safety levels of children in safety seats compared to wearing rear seat belts; and to determine potential injuries suffered by occupants in such collisions. The safety levels of the Perodua Alza itself is not the primary subject of evaluation.
In a small media briefing held at MIROS headquarters in Kajang yesterday, MIROS Director-General Professor Dr Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah announced the institute’s conclusion that the under-run protection bracing helped prevent the Alza from being pinned under the trailer – which would mean almost certain death for the occupants.
The under-run bracing ensured that the Alza impacted the trailer with its front bumper, enabling the vehicle’s meticulously engineered crumple zone to absorb the energies produced by the collision as designed hence ensuring a fair chance of survival for the occupants. Had the under-run bracing been absent, the Alza would certainly impacted the trailer with its windscreen instead.
Inside, the child-sized dummy secured in the child seat registered no visible signs of injury, though a sensor-less baby-sized dummy ‘held’ by an adult-sized passenger was thrown forward, hitting the back of the driver. This is almost certain death for the baby, and hardly good news for the driver either, because we are talking about a 3.5kg (average mass of a human baby) projectile hurtling towards him/her at 30kph.
“This is a grim reminder that an adult passenger DOES NOT have the strength to hold a baby or a child from being thrown forward in the event of a crash at ANY speed,” Professor Ahmad Farhan stressed. (ed: Our emphasis.)
Meanwhile, up front, the two airbags of the Alza deployed as planned, and proved effective when used with seatbelts to protect both the driver and front passenger. Crash test sensors mounted in the Hybrid-III dummies recorded a massive 50g deceleration at the dummy’s head. As a point for comparison, a Formula 1 car at full braking force decelerates at only 5g.
On the enforcement front, the Rules for Motorized Vehicles (Construction and Use) 1959 already specifies under-run braces as a compulsory installation for commercial vehicles in Malaysia. Unfortunately, according to Prof Ahmad Farhan, the regulation fails to specify any requirements for the braces in the form of standards, design, strength or specifications, thus leading to minimal enforcement and compliance.
That is set to change in October, as MIROS has already gotten the government to enforce standards of under-run protection of braces as stipulated under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation 58. Compliance to this regulation will be compulsory, as it governs installation, dimensions, and maintenance parameters to be followed.
According to MIROS, data sourced from the Road Transport Department (JPJ) estimates the presence of some 900,000 registered commercial vehicles in Malaysia. Further statistics showed that from 2006 to 2008, 20308 accident cases were reported between a lorry and a car, of which 38.9% were rear-end collisions. In the three-year period from 2003 to 2005, 327 were killed and 428 injured in rear under-run crashes.
On the subject of child and infant seats, although the use of these items are not yet compulsory in Malaysia, Prof Ahmad Farhan reminded parents that they have the responsibility to ensure that their children are properly secured when traveling, be it with only seatbelts or specially-designed child seats.
Prof Ahmad Farhan said findings from the crash test reaffirmed the importance of addressing road safety from what is known as a Safe System Approach, which enlists the co-operation of all relevant players, i.e. authorities, manufacturers, operators, drivers, and the public. The mantra to go by is that, although ‘an accident may happen, it should not result in death or injury.’
I personally endorse the use of the under-run braces. Some years back, my father lost an old classmate to a road accident at the North-South Highway. Driving at night, he was caught unaware by a stationary trailer, promptly drove his car right into it.
Although I did not witness the accident, nor was I present at the scene, I was told that the injuries he suffered were so gruesome that he was better off dead. After witnessing this crash test, I now strongly suspect that the trailer he collided to either had no under-run bracing, or had sub-standard ones. – KON