The Crumple zone is by far one of the most important safety techniques invented by automobile engineers to help protect car accident victims and their legs from the dangerously intense energy generated during high impact crashes.
Checking the video below, you can easily comprehend the amount of energy generated during high impact traffic collisions and the effect such might have on the occupants of the vehicle if left unmitigated.
The video below showing several high impact car crashes at various car collision tests:
High Speed Crashes Put Vehicles To Frontal Impact Crash Test
Brief History of the Crumple Zone
If you've had a chance to play around some of those old model cars like the early models of Datsun cars and even Volvo 240 models, one thing easily stands out, which is how hard and tough the body of the cars were.
In fact, they were so hard that you could even crack a nut on some of them. At that time, the understanding was that the harder the vehicle's body, the safer it was in the event of a crash. But that understanding and design principle resulted in numerous car accident fatalities and injuries as vehicle occupants were exposed to intense impact energy whenever a crash occurred.
However, a new vehicle body design principle was introduced by Hungarian mechanical engineer Béla Barényi in 1951 when he got a patent for his new design idea.
Barényi proposed a new design principle that attacked the very foundation of the auto industry's previous idea of system safety.
His concept preferred the adoption of lighter materials that could crumple in a certain way, as against the hard non-crumpling materials used for car bodies at that time. The concept behind Barényi's idea was based on the assumption that vehicle occupants were safer in cars that crumpled on impact or dissipated all the impact energy on colliding with other objects or cars.
By 1959, Béla Barényi's visionary safety idea was incorporated in the Mercedes Benz W111 series becoming the first vehicle model to come with the 1951 body design patent. Before long other auto-manufacturing companies began introducing the safety technique Béla Barényi and Mercedes-Benz called the "Crumple Zone".
>>> Read also: Reasons why Honda vehicles are among the safest
How the Crumple Zone Works
Béla Barényi's design principle divided the body of a car into three parts with two of these being the crumple zones located in the front area and rear end of the car.
Remember Béla Barényi preferred lighter materials that could easily crumple on impact allowing for the dissipation or distribution of the impact energy across the area of the car body experiencing the force.
This idea of lighter and easily crumpled materials was to help adjust the behavior of the car on impact. When heavier materials were used for the construction of car bodies, various car accident reports showed that when a crash occurred, the vehicle virtually remained in their position or experienced very little acceleration after the crash.
The low vehicle acceleration after a crash occasioned by the short impact time meant all the force generated by the crash gets concentrated at a specific region and since the materials will not crumple, all that force will be transferred towards the vehicle cabin where you have the driver and others.
However, with lighter materials, the vehicle acceleration after impact is relatively higher as a result of longer impact time. This higher impact time allows the region of impact to crumple adequately, with the force generated during the crash distributed extensively across the desired region.
The implication of this is that no force is transferred to the vehicle cabin as all the generated force is completely dissipated or distributed across the crumpling materials.
With this thinking in mind, lighter materials were used in the construction of the front and rear regions of the car, to act as crumple zones protecting the vehicle cabin from crash impacts in the event of a collision.
The crumpling materials absorb all the crash forces in a collision
Volvo XC60: Crumple Zones
How the Crumple zone protects your legs and the whole body
One part of our body that we usually believe is most prone to injury in the event of a frontal crash is the legs and this is understandable considering that it is probably the closest to the front section of the car.
However, with the inclusion of the crumple zone in modern cars, the legs are very well protected against serious injuries.
Remember we said that the crumple zone effectively isolates the vehicle cabin from the force of impact in an event of a collision by redistributing the crash force across the impact region. This means that rather than transfer such intense force towards the cabin, some materials within the crumple zone will absorb the energy generated by the impact and will thus crumble or be crushed as a result, making sure no impact force reaches the cabin. Consequently, your legs are spared any form of injury in the event of such a crash.
However, it is worthy to note that the crumple zone is used alongside other safety techniques and technology like the airbags and seatbelts to provide the best possible protection for the driver and the passengers. That is why the vehicle pedals are immediately unhinged in the event a significantly high impact collision occurs. This makes sure your legs don't get crushed by the solid pedals or even stuck under it, the result of both being serious and sometimes irreversible injuries.
Also in an event your vehicle gets crashed into from behind, the rear crumple zone makes sure your back and spine get protected against the impact of the crash.
For saloon cars, the boot region is designed to serve as the vehicle's crumple zone. On the other hand, SUVs and Hatchbacks with limited boot areas come with beams and pillars at the rear that help absorb the force generated as a result of a crash.
The rear crumple zone protects passengers when a high impact tailgating occurs
After reading this, I’m certain you've become better enlightened on what the crumple zone really is and how it protects you and your legs.
However, as much as the crumple zone helps in offering protection in the event of a crash, you must remember it is compulsory and mandatory that you wear your seat belts always whenever you are in a car, as this offers a different kind of protection.
You definitely don't want to add to the already disturbing car accident statistics of people who got a serious unintentional injury. Remember not using a seatbelt has been fingered as the cause of death in numerous road accidents.