Source: The Mercury, Thursday, December 1, 1994, p.8
POPULAR four-wheel-drive and passenger vans are not as safe as family sedans, with up to a 70 per cent chance of serious injury or death to occupants in certain types of accidents, say researchers who released their findings yesterday. The New Car Assessment Program, operated by the New South Wales motorists' association the NRMA and the state Roads and Traffic Authority, used nine popular heavy vehicles to simulate full-frontal and off-set crashes into fixed objects and other vehicles. However, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries rejected the findings, saying the tests used speeds greater than the international standard for front-impact assessments, which was 48kmh, and were statistically unsound. Chamber chief executive Ian Grigg said the faster speed of 56kmh used in the program, while only 8kmh above the international stan- dard, was enough to cause an increase of 36 per cent in crash energy. "That dramatically increases the potential occupant-injury energy," he said. Also, the method of testing did not reflect real-life accidents, he said. The NRMA and the authority called on the Federal Government to bring forward the implementation of new safety standards for passenger vans and four-wheel-drives. NRMA Community Rela- tions manager Ron Burnstein said the new safety rules for other cars were to start in 1995-two years before the same laws would apply to heavier vehicles. But NSW Transport Minis- ter Bruce Baird conceded: "Because four-wheel-drives and passenger vans are heavier than sedans, it is difficult to make direct comparisons in car-to-car crashes. Larger, heavier vehicles will usually come off best in a crash with a smaller vehicle." Under the test results, the risk of injury or death to drivers of certain vehicles was: Land Rover Discovery (63 per cent), Nissan Patrol RX wagon (56 per cent), Mitsubishi Pajero GLX V6 (55 per cent) and Suzuki Vitara Estate JX (52 per cent). The safest four-wheel-drive was the Toyota LandCruiser GXL with the risk to drivers at 31 per cent and, to passengers, 13 per cent. Of the passenger vans tested, the Mazda MPV LV and Toyota Spacia GXi had a risk factor of 69 per cent, Toyota Tarago Getaway Gli 67 per cent and Mitsubishi Starwagon GL 51 per cent. The highest risk to passengers in both vehicle types included the Suzuki Vitara (65 per cent), Nissan Patrol (63 per cent), Toyota Tarago (40 per cent) and Mitsubishi Starwagon (33 per cent). Along with the LandCruis- er, the safest vehicles for passengers were the Land Rover Discovery and Mitsubishi Pajero (16 per cent).
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