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IIHS Small Overlap Front Crash Test Makes Impact, Study Shows 12% Reduction in Frontal Crash Fatalities

mazda cx 50 2023 iihs jpg 2023 Mazda CX-50 | IIHS photo

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap front crash test was added to the organization’s testing regimen in 2012, and it’s proving to have an impact in real-world crashes. According to a new study by the safety organization, drivers in vehicles that earned a good rating in the test are 12% less likely to be killed in a frontal crash versus those in vehicles that received a poor rating.

Related: Here’s Every Car That Earned an IIHS Top Safety Award for 2023

IIHS researchers came to this conclusion by calculating the number of driver deaths per total police-reported frontal crashes for each rating and adjusting the figures to account for vehicle type, curb weight and driver demographics. However, it’s important to note that the study only focused on driver’s seat occupants as all crashes have a driver but often an empty passenger seat.

“The numbers confirm that strong performance in the Institute’s small overlap front crash test translates into big reductions in fatality risk,” said Eric Teoh, director of statistical services at IIHS and one of the study’s authors.

The small front overlap test measures how a vehicle holds up if a front corner of it hits another vehicle or a stationary obstacle like a tree or a pole. Unlike the moderate overlap evaluation, which has 40% of the width of a vehicle collide with the barrier, only 25% of the car crashes into the rigid barrier at 40 mph in the small overlap test. The test’s ratings are based on the amount of intrusion into the cabin, injury-predicting measurements collected from the driver’s seat dummy and engineer evaluations.

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