Head-On Crash Tests Make An Impact

Slick, the famous Crash Test Dummy
After years of horror videos that showed simulated drivers crushed in simulated crashes, new test results are a welcome 180-degree turn, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

For the first time in tests, a set of nine midsize cars all earned a top rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The latest positive results means the head-on tests may soon no longer be needed, according to the head of the Insurance Institute.

"When we get to the point where all or most cars are good performers, we can certainly see ourselves phasing this test out," said Brian O' Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The institute began simulating head-on collisions seven years ago in a push to reduce injuries and deaths on the road. The tests are considered a driving force behind automakers' and consumers' accelerated attention to safety.

After failing initial crash tests, manufacturers of vehicles such as the 1994 Saab 900 and Toyota's 1996 Previa set out to improve their scores.

Sales increased for Toyota after it built the safer Sienna, while the new Saab tested rock solid.

The automakers often challenged the tests, but also clearly worked behind the scenes to improve their scores.

"We're building smarter cars today for smarter consumers, and we have added a lot of safety features to the vehicles," said Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Even if the Insurance Institute phases out head on tests, the crashing will continue. This fall, they'll roll out a new test focusing on a different type of danger: side impact crashes.