BenzWorld Senior Member
Date registered: Jun 2011
Vehicle: 1999 E320 Sedan
Location: SF Bay Area
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 44 Post(s)
Quite a bit of falsehoods, myths, and misconceptions here. Even for Mercedes, a manufacturer that started to make car safety a priority earlier than most others, it is true that modern cars (of a given class) offer much better passive crash protection than their predecessors built decades ago in virtually every respect. (In terms of active crash protection, the advances have been even greater.)
Modern steels with their extreme toughness that are used to build passenger cells today have come a long way from the materials used in the 60s-70s. Neither did complex, computer based crash simulations exist back then. Besides, despite the attempts to limit vehicle weight, today's Mercedes are typically not lighter, but heavier than those built decades ago. The average weight of the S-class from the 1960s-early 1970s (W108) was roughly 1.5 tons, that of the S-class from the 1970s-early 1980s (W116) about 1.7 tons, that of the S-class from the late 2000s (W221), the one involved in the crash shown here, almost 2 tons. One major reason that prevents manufacturers from building lighter cars is the need and determination to achieve ever higher levels of passenger safety.
There are always crash scenarios against which even the safest cars offer limited protection. The scenario of hitting a large mass not with the bumper, but only with the windscreen and the front of the roof is one such case. These accidents can involve hitting large animals (the legs are cut off but the heavy torso remains stationary--in Sweden this often occurs with moose, especially in spring time) or rear-ending a trailer without a protective guard bar (which are now installed for this very reason). This is an extremely difficult problem to solve, and the outcome is often very severe no matter what car is driven: the windscreen has no crumple zone, neither does the roof. A rollover, in contrast, or a fall on the roof are completely different crash scenarios.
Regarding the accident that started the threat: it is well-nigh impossible to pass any competent judgment not knowing the specifics of what appears to have been a quite complex crash with potentially multiple collisions with cars as well as stationary objects. Crumple zones are one-use items: after energy from a first hit has been absorbed, there is little protection left against a second hit. Finally, the person who died was reportedly not buckled up. But again, without knowing fundamental data, let alone details of this incidents it would be foolish to even try drawing just about any conclusions or make any generalizations here.