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Revised Crash Test Highlights SUVs’ Lagging Rear Passenger Protection

IIHS SUV Front Crash Test 2021 Volvo XC40 2021 Toyota RAV4 01 jpg 2021 Volvo XC40 | IIHS image

Of all the crash tests the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has developed and conducted over the years, its longest-running is the moderate overlap front test. The agency has now updated the test for the first time since its debut in 1995, and the new evaluation has revealed a gap in protection between front and rear passengers in small SUVs.

Related: IIHS Toughens Up Crash Tests; Many SUVs Fail

Many Small SUVs Earn Poor Rating

IIHS evaluated 15 small SUVs in the new moderate overlap front test and found that only two protected rear occupants well enough to earn a good rating. Below are the full results of the SUVs and their corresponding model years:

Good

  • 2022-23 Ford Escape (built after May 2022)
  • 2021-23 Volvo XC40

Acceptable

  • 2021-23 Toyota RAV4

Marginal

  • 2021-23 Audi Q3
  • 2021-23 Nissan Rogue
  • 2021-23 Subaru Forester

Poor

  • 2021-22 Buick Encore
  • 2021-23 Chevrolet Equinox
  • 2021-22 Honda CR-V
  • 2021-22 Honda HR-V
  • 2021 Hyundai Tucson
  • 2021 Jeep Compass
  • 2021-23 Jeep Renegade
  • 2021-22 Mazda CX-5
  • 2022-23 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

“Thanks to automakers’ improvements, drivers in most vehicles are nearly 50% less likely to be killed in a frontal crash today than they were 25 years ago,” said David Harkey, IIHS president. Our updated test is a challenge to manufacturers to bring those same benefits to the backseat. The stellar performance of the Escape and XC40 shows it’s possible.”

IIHS SUV Front Crash Test 2021 Volvo XC40 2021 Toyota RAV4 02 jpg 2021 Toyota RAV4 | IIHS image

Renewing Focus on Rear-Seat Passengers

The updates that IIHS is making to the test may not seem that obvious at first glance. The test still functions as it did when it was introduced, with the vehicle traveling at 40 mph and 40% of the vehicle’s width crashing into a deformable aluminum honeycomb barrier to simulate a real-world offset type accident.

The update lies in how many crash-test dummies are used. In the old test, only one dummy was used in the driver’s seat to measure the impact of crash forces on occupants. The revised test adds a second dummy in the backseat behind the driver to represent a small adult or 12-year-old passenger. The rear dummy benefits from the same technologies as front seat passengers, such as seat belt crash tensioners, and the test’s sensors assess common injuries that a rear passenger might experience.

In order for a vehicle to earn a good rating in the new test, measurements picked up by sensors in the passenger dummy must not exceed a certain threshold for head, neck, abdominal and thigh injuries, and grease paint and additional measuring equipment is used to detect “submarining” (where the occupant slides underneath the lap belt). Additionally, a new pressure sensor tracks the shoulder belt’s position on the dummy’s torso to determine the risk of chest injuries.

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