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Five Fairy Tales Of Automobile Bumpers

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Five Fairy Tales Of Automobile Bumpers

Jeff Mohr
February 21, 2008

Bumpers have been a long standing battle between automakers and auto insurers with consumers stuck in the middle. Here's why...

FAIRY TALE #1 All Automobiles Manufactured In The United States Have 5 MPH Bumpers.

FACT: In 1982, the federal government bowed to pressure from automakers and rolled back impact test requirements from 5 to 2.5 mph for 1983 and later model cars. The 2.5 mph standard also allows unlimited damage to the bumper and attachments - and most of today's flimsy bumpers cost considerably more than the old 5 mph bumpers to fix.

FAIRY TALE #2 Todays 2½ MPH Bumper Standards Apply To All Vehicles Manufactured In The US.

FACT: Federal bumper requirements apply only to passenger cars. There are no federal standards for Minivans, Pickup Trucks, or SUVs.

FAIRY TALE #3 Bumpers Don't Need To Be More Effective.

FACT: Consumers want stronger bumpers and they want them on all vehicle types. In a 1998 Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) survey, 77% of respondents said the government should require car bumpers to withstand a 5 mph impact with no damage. Eighty-eight percent said federal bumper standards should apply to all passenger vehicle types, not just cars.

FAIRY TALE #4 New Bumpers Are Better Than Old Ones.

Generally no. Bumpers used to be stronger. Example: "The 2004 F-150 is all new, but its bumpers are just as flimsy as before and even a little worse," says Adrian Lund of IIHS. "The highest damage total was in the rear-into-pole test. The whole bumper was pushed downward, and the tailgate was crushed. In addition, the left and right ends of the bumper were driven into the rear fenders." But it’s not just Ford.

FAIRY TALE #5 All Bumpers Are The Same.

No. Bumpers vary a lot in terms of both components and performance. In fact, some vehicles don’t even have bumpers. According to Adrian Lund of the IIHS; when one Toyota RAV4 was crashed into another Toyota RAV4 at 10 mph, “it didn't engage the rear bumper because this SUV doesn't have a rear bumper. Instead, the striking RAV4 hit the spare tire mounted on the tailgate," Lund says. "This spare tire was the 'anti-bumper.' It didn't absorb any energy. It didn't prevent any damage. In fact, it caused most of the damage to both vehicles.

Why It Costs You Money…

Bumpers play a significant role in insurance costs because so many physical damage claims are for relatively small amounts of damage involving the front or rear of vehicles--damage that a well designed bumper could prevent. Half of all collision claims are $1,500 or less. Repair costs for these minor incidents are a major factor in overall collision insurance costs.

So, How Can Consumers Tell If A Vehicle Has A Good Bumper?

Consumers cannot tell a good bumper from a bad one by looking at it. The federal government does not require automakers to disclose information about bumper performance. Jeff is CEO of Mohr Mfg - http://www.superbumper.com The company makes portable, energy absorbing, spare safety bumpers that prevent rear end collision damage caused by Tailgaters, Uninsured Motorists, Bumper To Bumper Traffic, Distracted Drivers, Inattentive Cell Phone Users, Drivers With Poor Judgment, Text Messengers And Lousy, Stinking Parallel Parkers.

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