If a New Car Can Demolish an Old One, How Is a Human Expected to Fare?

To mark its 50th anniversary, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently pitted a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air against its contemporary counterpart, a 2009 Malibu, in a 40 mph crash test. As you can see in the video, the Malibu destroys its predecessor.

The results were intended to demonstrate how much safer cars are now than a half-decade ago, but my first thought was that the new vehicle is the same make and model that NYPD Detective Kevin Spellman drove into Drana Nikac at an estimated 30 mph — a speed that carries a pedestrian fatality rate of up to 45 percent.

So while modern-day engineering may be better at protecting drivers and passengers, the auto industry and the IIHS — whose "bigger is better" philosophy ignores those outside of vehicles — have a long, long way to go before they can crow too loudly about overall safety.

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