Modern cars seem to last forever. A well maintained vehicle should be able to get you well past 100,000 miles. Engines are more efficient and fuel mileage is ever improving. But don’t confuse these breakthroughs in engine, fuel intake, and transmission technology with safety improvements. Air bags, side impact bars, seat belts and ABS breaks have certainly improved vehicle safety records – but mostly at high speeds. Take almost any car made in the 50s and 60s, add airbags and seatbelts and you would have a much heavier and safer automobile than most anything on the road today.
Modern rear bumpers efficiently displace the energy from an impact and move that energy forward. The force is actually amplified as it moves forward through the vehicle’s cabin only to be partially absorbed by the automobile driver and passengers! The technology that allows bumpers to be more efficient displacers of energy, actually hides the effects of the impact – decreasing the visual damage to the bumper (read, not as expensive to repair). Today, car parts are designed to be easily crushed and cheaply replaced when damaged – not to better protect car drivers and passengers, but to save the insurance company money.
Insurance companies then rely on experts to say things that, intuitively, sound good like: because the speed of Vehicle 1 was extremely low, as evidence by the lack of any significant damage to Vehicle 2, it can be concluded that very little energy was transferred to the occupants of Vehicle 2.