IIHS Updates Crash Tests to Close Safety Gap

IIHS Updates Crash Tests to Close Safety Gap

The test updates address a growing gap in the protection provided for front and rear vehicle occupants.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced it is updating its longest-running crash test, the moderate overlap front evaluation, to address a growing gap in the protection provided for front and rear occupants. In the first tests, only two out of 15 small SUVs, the Ford Escape and Volvo XC40, protect the rear occupant well enough to earn a good rating. 

The Toyota RAV4 earns an acceptable rating, and the Audi Q3, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester are rated marginal. Another nine vehicles — the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-5 and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross — are rated poor, according to IIHS.

“The original moderate overlap test was our first evaluation and the lynchpin of the Institute’s crash testing program,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “Thanks to automakers’ improvements, drivers in most vehicles are nearly 50 percent less likely to be killed in a frontal crash today than they were 25 years ago. Our updated test is a challenge to manufacturers to bring those same benefits to the back seat. The stellar performance of the Escape and XC40 shows it’s possible.” 

All 15 vehicles earn good ratings in the original evaluation, demonstrating robust structures and effective restraints that protect the driver’s head from contacting the hard surfaces of the interior and minimize the risk of other types of injuries. However, the additional measurements provided by the new test show that most of them don’t provide adequate protection for the rear passenger’s head and neck — the most vulnerable areas of the body. 

The new test incorporates a second Hybrid III dummy representing a small woman or 12-year-old child positioned in the second row behind the driver and utilizes new metrics that focus on the injuries most frequently seen in rear-seat occupants. 

“We’re excited to launch the first frontal crash test in the U.S. to include a rear-occupant dummy,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Marcy Edwards, who led the development of the new evaluation. “This is a fantastic opportunity to rapidly deliver big safety benefits by adapting technologies that we already know to be effective.” 

For example, in the front seat, crash tensioners tighten the seat belts the instant a crash begins so that the occupant’s body begins to slow with the vehicle. Then, as the tightened belt stops the occupant from flying forward, force limiters allow some of the webbing to spool out to reduce the risk of chest injuries. Rear-seat occupants would also benefit from these technologies. Features like rear seat airbags and seat belts that themselves inflate to mitigate the effects of crash forces could help too. But less than half of new vehicles have advanced restraint systems in the rear seat. 

The test speed, offset and barrier used in the new test remain the same as in the original one. Vehicles still receive ratings of good, acceptable, marginal or poor, but they have to meet several new requirements along with the earlier ones. 

To earn a good rating, measurements recorded by sensors in the second-row dummy must not exceed limits indicating an excessive risk of injury to the head, neck, chest, abdomen or thigh. Video footage and greasepaint applied to the dummy’s head must confirm that the restraints prevented the head from hitting the vehicle interior or coming too close to the front seatback and also prevented the dummy’s body from “submarining,” or sliding forward beneath the lap belt, which causes abdominal injuries. A pressure sensor that monitors the position of the shoulder belt on the torso of the dummy is being used for the first time to help gauge the risk of chest injuries, according to IIHS.

For more information, visit iihs.org

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