Smashing away for safety

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Choosing a new car often comes down to budget, looks and safety.

But you can also get reliable information on a car’s safety thanks to a smashing program called ANCAP.

The Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is an independent program supported by motoring clubs and governments in Australia and New Zealand.

It tests the safety of cars in a smash and the safety of the people in the car.

The cars are crash-tested in four ways:

  1. A front-on test where the vehicle hits a barrier at 64 km/h
  2. A side impact test at 50 km/h
  3. A test to assess likely injuries caused to pedestrians by a vehicle travelling at 40 km/h, and
  4. The pole test where the car moving sideways at 29 km/h hits a pole lined up with the driver's head.

To make things simple, each car is rated on a five star system – five stars are awarded to the vehicles that offer the best protection for people traveling in them.

Additional tests can be performed to determine how much damage will be done to pedestrians in collisions with different vehicles.

How it’s done

All of this happens in a testing lab, like Roads and Maritime Services Crashlab in Sydney. The lab includes a fully enclosed, 180 metre test track which can crash vehicles at speeds anywhere from 8 km/h to 100 km/h.

The vehicles are towed down the track clamped to a steel cable powered by a large electric motor. The crash wall is a steel and concrete block weighing 105 tonnes.

At the point of collision, up to 15 high speed cameras each recording 1,000 pictures per second are used to film the crash from all angles.

Inside the car, crash test dummies are designed to mimic the movement of the human body. Instrumentation in the dummies shows technicians the deceleration and force on different parts of the body.

Different coloured paints are added to the face and body of the dummy so that the lab technicians can tell where the dummy hits the different parts of the car.

The cars used are exactly the same as those sold to the general public, so that the results are relevant to the everyday car buyer.

Where to check results

Tests are conducted regularly on new and used cars and the results are made available to the public to guide purchasing decisions.

You can check for the latest results online at the Centre for Road Safety or on the ANCAP website.

The Transport Accident Commission has a search for your car function so you can look for safety results on different cars.