Louisiana residents may have heard the Tesla Model S referred to as the safest vehicle to ever be sold in America, and they could be surprised to learn that the Palo Alto-based electric car maker's luxury sedan failed to impress the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety during a grueling test of six full-sized sedans. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, The Toyota Avalon and the Lincoln Continental all earned places on the IIHS's list of the safest vehicles offered for sale in the United States, but the Model S, the Ford Taurus and the Chevrolet Impala did not.
The Tesla, Ford and Chevrolet all failed to earn a place on the coveted IIHS list because they performed poorly in what the nonprofit organization calls the small overlap front test. This is one of five accident simulations conducted by the IIHS, and it measures how well vehicles hold up in front-end collisions where the driver's side corner strikes a tree or similar object.
IIHS testers say that the seat belts fitted to the Model S were not substantial enough to hold the crash test dummy securely during the small overlap front test. The seat belts in the Chevrolet and Ford did their jobs more effectively according to the IIHS, but footage of the crash test dummies involved suggests that their occupants could still have suffered injuries to their heads or legs.
The results of crash tests conducted by groups like the IIHS can be used to improve automobile safety systems and design, and they could also help experienced personal injury attorneys to establish liability in car accident lawsuits. Negligent motorists are rarely eager to confess to their reckless actions, but the damage sustained by their vehicles can be compared to crash test images to determine how fast they were traveling before they crashed.