Car Bumper Safety

Written by joanna swanson
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Car Bumper Safety
The bumper of a car is one of many safety features. (red car image by Istvan Ferge from

Motor vehicles are equipped with several safety features. One important feature is the bumper. The bumper of a car is designed to absorb force during a crash with minimal damage to itself or the vehicle. The federal government has created regulations to ensure that bumpers provide enough protection during a low speed crash.


The first federal regulations were created in the 1970s. Early safety standards required no damage to the bumper at five miles per hour. In 1979 the standard was changed to prohibit damage to everything except the bumper at low speed. The government toughened standards between 1980 and 1982 to prohibit all damage except for cosmetic damage to bumpers for the same tests. They also defined the area of protection as 16 to 20 inches above the street.


The purpose of regulations regarding car bumpers is to minimise the damage during a crash to the front and back of passenger vehicles at low speeds. Each vehicle must meet certain standards involving the amount of damage to the bumper and the frame of the vehicle.

Current Requirements

Current legislation, updated September 10, 1999, requires that no material damage be sustained by the structure of the vehicle and 2.5 miles per hour. All doors and the hood and boot must operate in a normal manner and there must not be any leaks from the fuel, heating, exhaust, or cooling systems. The braking, steering and suspension systems of the vehicle must also be operating fully. Besides possible damage to the bumper and its components, there must be no deformation of the exterior of the car and there must be no separation of any of its parts, including paint.


The safety requirements put forth by the federal government apply only to passenger cars, but do not apply to pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, or minivans. Many manufacturers of these types of vehicles do put bumpers on their vehicles, but they do not have to pass the impact tests that car bumpers do. They are often higher than the required protection area of 16 to 20 inches and they often do not offer any protection at all.


While bumpers are placed on vehicles to provide protection, they are only rated to absorb shocks from low speed crashes. High speed crashes are dangerous and a bumper will absorb little force. And the difference in height of a passenger car versus a pickup truck or sport utility vehicle can cause serious damage to the body of a car or to the area below the bumper of the truck.

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