ARLINGTON, Va. — A new crash test program from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety aims to ensure that manufacturers pay attention to the safety of front passengers as well as drivers.
A new crash test program from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety aims to ensure that manufacturers pay attention to the safety of front passengers as well as drivers. Courtesy: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / CBS Newspath
The test was developed after it became clear that some manufacturers were giving short shrift to the right side of the vehicle when it comes to small overlap front crash protection. A good or acceptable passenger-side rating will be required to qualify for the Institute’s 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.
The first test group in the passenger-side small overlap front test program did better overall than vehicles IIHS previously evaluated for research.
Ten out of 13 midsize cars tested earn a good rating,while one is acceptable and two earn a marginal rating. In contrast with a group of 2014-16 model small SUVs tested for research, none of the 2017-18 midsize cars had a poor or marginal structural rating.
Instead, the biggest problem in the new group was inconsistent airbag protection in five cars, which would put passengers’ heads at risk.
“The midsize cars we tested didn’t have any glaring structural deficiencies on the right side,” says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Becky Mueller. “Optimizing airbags and safety belts to provide better head protection for front-seat passengers appears to be the most urgent task now.”
In recent years, automakers have made important changes to vehicle structures and restraints to earn good ratings in
the driver-side small overlap front test.
That test sends a vehicle into a barrier at 40 mph with just 25 percent of the vehicle’s front end overlapping the barrier on the driver side. It mimics what happens when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with an obstacle such as a tree or utility pole.
The Institute introduced the small overlap test in 2012, and it has been part of the IIHS awards criteria since 2013. The 2018 Subaru Outback earns a good rating in the passengerside small overlap front crash test.