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AGRSS Board Visits Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
March 12, 2009

The board of directors of the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) Council Inc. visited the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) yesterday to tour the Vehicle Research Center, located in Ruckersville, Va., and to meet with officials to observe a crash test of a 2009 Ford Focus coupe. The IIHS is an independent, nonprofit, organization dedicated to reducing the deaths, injuries and property damage on the nation's highways via research and analysis.

The board of directors of the AGRSS Council Inc. poses with the 2009 Ford Focus they saw crash-tested yesterday. From left to right: Gene Nichols of Guardian Industries; Dan Mock of Glass Doctor; Joel Timmons of Profitable Glass Solutions; David Rohlfing of Glass America; Jeff Bull of J. Bull Associates; Bob Birkhauser of AEGIS Tools International; Jean Pero of Mygrant Glass; Debra Levy of AGRR magazine; Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants; and Cindy Ketcherside of JC's Glass.

Joseph Nolan, senior vice president for the vehicle research center operations, led the tour and explained the work that the organization does, as it is funded entirely by various insurers across the country.

"We get the claims data for roughly 80 percent of insurers," he said. He explained that the group uses that information to analyze how it can reduce the costs of claims across the nation. Likewise, the crash testing conducted at IIHS allows insurers to refine their actuarial processes—the processes used to figure out policy premiums, levels of risk, etc.

"There's a race to fine-tune the actuarial," he said.

Likewise, IIHS is working to refine its process for crash-testing. For example, the organization has designed an "offset crash," which it hopes is a close simulation of most vehicle crashes—rather than a straight head-on crash into a concrete wall.

"It's much more representative," Nolan said.

However, the group does other simulations, too, such as side-impact crash simulations—and in these instances, uses two vehicles at a time for the crash-testing. IIHS purchases all of its vehicles from local dealerships. One thing it has learned from side-impact testing is that there's more to protection than just side impact airbags.

"[In an accident] Momentum needs to be conserved," Nolan said. " …. You want to push these guys as cocoons."

Nolan pointed out that if the entire body moves together as a cocoon, there's less chance of severe injury or fatality.

As IIHS tests the latest vehicles on the market, they also become aware of many new technologies early on. One popular one, which Nolan said is a necessity, is electronic stability control (ESC).

"Unless you're a professional driver, it happens before you even figure out there's slippage," said Nolan as he described how ESC works. "It reacts faster than a human, and the beauty is, you don't have to do a thing. It's been a lifesaver for SUVs."

Headrests are also a popular topic at the vehicle research center-and an important function of the vehicle.

"If your whole body is going to get pushed forward, you can push it all together," he said. "The whole idea is to minimize the amount of head motion."

One area that is important to IIHS may be surprising to some—bumpers. Nolan explained that 60 percent of insurance claims are under $2,500 (which adds up to some major expenditures for insurers), and a number of these deal with fender benders of sorts.

"We've been beating the drum on this for so long," Nolan said, "but customers just don't care … [They] don't care, even though this is jacking up [consumers' insurance] rates."

Nolan showed the group a crash-tested Volkswagen Rabbit that was crashed going 6 mph—resulting in $4,078 in damages. The AGRSS board also witnessed an actual crash test.

Roof crush is yet another area in which IIHS has done testing, and the group continually evaluates the automotive industry for the latest safety mechanisms to watch.

"We've got guys who monitor the industry," Nolan said.

This was one of the many reasons the AGRSS board was in attendance at the facility—to take the time to meet with Nolan and his associate, Sean O'Malley, to explain the importance of a windshield to a vehicle's safety structure.

Nolan noted, though, that the areas the group focuses on tend to deal with societal changes.

"On the vehicle side, we focus on serious injuries and fatalities," he said. "It kind of depends on the hot-button societal issues."

For example, IIHS currently is surveying customers who've purchased vehicles with crash avoidance systems to see whether they find them helpful.

"This stuff's going to be pouring out and we're trying to evaluate it," Nolan said.

AGRSS Council president Cindy Ketcherside took the lead in informing Nolan and O'Malley about the AGRSS Standard and the industry at large, but other board members spoke as well.

"We're both in the safety business," said Bob Beranek of Automotive Glass Consultants.

As Ketcherside continued her presentation, she was asked many questions about auto glass from both Nolan and O'Malley. One subject she touched on was salvage glass and the concerns about using it.

Beranek also explained why reducing the liability involved in auto glass replacement (via the use of the AGRSS Standard) could also be beneficial to insurance companies.

"I can see where insurance companies would [be interested in that]," O'Malley said.

"It was a very, very informative and educational day," said Ketcherside. "There was a lot of good information exchanged between our two safety organizations."

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