IIHS Study: Passengers Might Be at High Risk in Cars With Good Driverside Protection

Automotive safety technology has come a long way since the 1960s and 1970s when the per capita fatality rate was 2-3 times what it is today, but a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that, although improvements have been made in driverside protection in many cars, there is still a ways to go in providing similar levels of protection for front seat passengers.

How the IIHS Tests Automotive Safety

Part of the reason automotive technology has become safer is that the testing process for car safety has become increasingly thorough, taking into account a wide variety of potential collision scenarios. The IIHS uses a number of different tests to assess safety across cars, including testing the strength of automotive roofs, head restraints, and seats.

The institute also look at two main types of collisions: side crashes (being rammed on the side) and frontal crashes (driving into another car, wall, or object). Within the heading of frontal crashes are two subcategories: moderate overlap crashes where a large portion of the front of the car collides with another object, and small overlap crashes where only the corner of the front of the car hits an object, such as a light pole or tree.

The IIHS Results on “Small Overlap” Collisions

In looking at small overlap crashes, the IIHS found that, by and large, small SUVs had made improvements in the protections they offered to drivers in such crashes, but that they were asymmetrical with regard to passengers sitting in the front seat. Passengers faced greater “intrusion,” meaning the amount of structural impact made as the car caves in on itself, in most cars, up to 10-13 inches as compared to the driver side. In one case, the passenger door of an SUV swung open during a small overlap collision, which could lead to passenger ejection.

The IIHS noted that, in most cases, both the passenger side and driver side looked similar before the crash, so adjustments made to increase passenger side protection were not visible and only apparent due to the testing. Such adjustments can include using stronger materials with slightly larger thickness. The IIHS gave only one good rating to the 7 SUVs tested with respect to passenger side safety, despite having given all good ratings with respect to driverside protection. The institute’s full ratings as to passenger side protection are as follows:
  • 2016 Hyundai Tuscon: Good
  • 2015 Buick Encore: Acceptable
  • 2015 Honda CR-V: Acceptable
  • 2015 Mazda CX-5: Acceptable
  • 2014 Nissan Rogue: Marginal
  • 2014 Subaru Forester: Marginal
  • 2015 Toyota RAV4: Poor

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If you have been involved in an automobile accident in New York, automobile accident attorney Justin Brandel can help you obtain the recovery you deserve under New York law. Contact The Law Offices of Justin D. Brandel to set up a free consultation.

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