Crumple zones are structural features in a car which are designed to absorb the energy of a collision. The zone will compress, reducing the impact on other areas of the car. Crumple zones are generally located at the front portion of the car to assist with possible head-on collisions. However, they can be found on other parts of the vehicle as well.
The first car to have the crumple zone concept was the 1959 Mercedes-Benz Fintail, which was engineered by Bela Barenvi. The crumple zone acts a manager of the energy created in the crash, directing it to the frontal section for absorption. Because of the energy transformation, the passengers in the vehicle are impacted in a less severe manner. The crumple zone inhibits much of the deformation of the passenger cabin which would normally occur. To achieve this crumple zone effect, t he outer part of the car is weakened while the passenger cabin is strengthened through use of higher strength steels and reinforcing beams. Therefore, the energy expenditure damages the outer portion first, leaving less to contact the inner.
A widespread misconception is that crumple zones reduce the safety of vehicles by allowing the body of the vehicle to collapse and hence crushing the inside occupants. However, because crumple zones are located in the front and back of a car, the compression will occur to the engine or trunk compartment, leaving the passenger cabin in place. Crash results are proving that newer models with crumple zones provide much more protection to passengers than older models without them.