Risks higher for front-seat passengers in some SUV crashes

On June 23rd, the New York Times published an article revealing that front-seat passengers in SUVs may be at increased risk for injury during a motor vehicle collision than drivers.

Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (hereinafter “IIHS”) tested seven leading small SUV vehicles by placing them through “small overlap frontal tests,” the newest of IIHS’s tests, which simulates front-end impact to the passenger’s side of the vehicle. Previously, all seven vehicles had been tested by the IIHS for front-end driver’s side impact ratings and all seven vehicles received the highest rating—“good.” However, when IIHS replicated the test for front-end passenger side impact to determine the extent to which they protect passengers, only one vehicle—the 2016 Hyundai Tucson—earned a “good” rating.  Of the remaining vehicles three—the 2015 Buick Encore, 2015 Honda CR-V, and 2015 Mazda CX-5—earned ratings of “acceptable,” while the 2014 Nissan Rogue and 2014 Subaru Forrester received “marginal” passenger protection ratings, and the 2015 Toyota RAV4 received a “poor” result. 

According federal fatality data, the level or protection that small SUVs afford front-seat passengers is of paramount importance, as 1,600 passengers died in frontal crashes in 2014 alone. Heeding the call to help analyze crash data in an effort to make American roads safer, the IIHS began its testing approximately four years ago. Since then, IIHS testing has prompted 13 automakers to make structural changes to 97 vehicles. And while it seems that many automakers are determined to incorporate IIHS safety testing results in the redesign and improvement of their models, some continue to note that IIHS safety standards “:go beyond” that required under federal law. 

Still, manufacturers like Hyundai, are happy to promote their good results, highlighting the “demanding” standards of IIHS testing in light of their vehicles’ top performance.