Both driver and passenger front seat belts include mechanically activated crash pretensioner devices to prevent slack from allowing excess forward movement in a crash. Rescuers should unbuckle or cut the seat belts of front seat occupants as soon as possible upon accessing the interior of the car. Avoid cutting the bottom six inches of the B-pillar to prevent cutting into the pretensioner device.
New Beetle crashworthiness testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, VA, involved a 40-mph frontal offset crash test in which slightly less than half of the width of the New Beetle's front end hits a deformable barrier made of aluminum honeycomb.
The offset crash stresses the structure on the front end, particularly the driver's side of the vehicle. In the New Beetle crash, the hood jammed shut and the inside hood release would not open the hood.
The battery in the driver's front corner of the engine compartment was damaged. The electrical terminal connection block and all the cables remained intact. The crash test vehicle's fuel system did not leak.
Institute engineers found that both front doors opened normally after the 40-mph crash. Overall, the survival space surrounding the crash test dummy in the driver's seat was maintained well. Research engineers who studied the forces generated on the crash test dummy's neck, chest and legs report low risk of injury to these body regions.
The New Beetle testing revealed minimal intrusion into the driver footwell area. This has been a consistent problem area with other small vehicles previously tested. There was only minimal rearward movement of the instrument panel during this relatively severe frontal crash.
As a final note, a New Beetle was involved in a July crash in a suburb of Dallas. As the driver, traveling at high speed, lost control of the car and ran off the road, the vehicle barrel rolled as many as 10 times. After the car came to rest, the belted driver released his seat belt, opened the front door and walked away from the crash. Only body damage to the sides and roof, along with a broken rear window told the tale of what could have been a potentially fatal crash.
Ron Moore, a Firehouse? contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com ?MembersZone? and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.