New IIHS report shows protection better for drivers than most front-seat passengers


(MEDIA GENERAL) – A new study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered several small SUVs that grade positively on frontal crashes involving the driver’s corner of the vehicle do not perform as well when the crash occurs on the passenger’s corner.

Of the seven small SUVs that received “good” ratings in testing on the driver side, only one received a “good” grade when the same test was conducted on the passenger side – the 2016 Hyundai Tucson.

Several car manufacturers made structural changes after the IIHS added a new test in 2012 that measured how well vehicles performed when striking an object on the driver-side corner, called a “small overlap test” because the impact bypasses the vehicle’s main front structure. Of the 97 vehicles that underwent structural changes to help protect drivers in these type of incidents, nearly three-quarters earned a “good” rating after the changes, according to the IIHS.

“It’s not surprising that automakers would focus their initial efforts to improve small overlap protection on the side of the vehicle that we conduct the tests on,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “In fact, we encouraged them to do that in the short-term if it meant they could quickly make driver-side improvements to more vehicles. As time goes by, though, we would hope they ensure similar levels of protection on both sides.”

The 2016 Hyundai Tucson was the only vehicle to receive a “good” rating on the passenger-side small overlap test. The 2015 Buick Encore, 2015 Honda CR-V and the 2015 Mazda CX-5 received “acceptable” ratings. The 2014 Nissan Rogue and 2014 Subaru Forester were rated as “marginal.” The 2015 Toyota RAV4 received a “poor” grade.

The new test findings have prompted the non-profit to institute a new rating metric as part of its “Top Safety Pick” criteria.

“This is an important aspect of occupant protection that needs more attention,” said Becky Mueller, an IIHS senior research engineer and lead author of the study. “More than 1,600 right-front passengers died in frontal crashes in 2014.”

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