IIHS Considering Reevaluating Offset Crash Tests, Passenger Protection
Disparity Between Driver and Passenger Injury Measures Motivated Study
A recent study carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found a disparity between driver and passenger protection in the agency’s challenging small overlap offset crash test.
The IIHS took several small SUVs that aced the small overlap test and subjected them to it again, this time focusing impact on the passenger side of the vehicle, rather than the driver side. While some of the SUVs in the test did equally well on both sides, others prioritized driver safety over passenger safety.
The worst offender, according to IIHS, was the Toyota RAV4, as injury measures from the passenger-seated dummy indicated a risk of injuries in a small overlap crash. Additionally, there was 13 extra inches of passenger cabin intrusion dashboard movement compared to the driver side, reducing the dummy’s survival space. The IIHS would give the RAV4 a poor rating if it evaluated passenger-side offset crashes. Of note, the driver-side performance is what's visible in these images, giving a clear picture of the SUV's good performance in that test.
Conversely, the Hyundai Tucson (whose driver-side test is pictured below) performed nearly identically between the driver and passenger sides, with virtually no extra intrusion. A low risk of injuries and a relatively intact survival space meant the Tucson would have received a “Good” rating. Three SUVs would have been rated as “Acceptable,” the Honda CR-V, Buick Encore, and Mazda CX-5. The Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester would have been rated “Marginal.”
Becky Mueller, IIHS senior research engineer and lead author of the study, says more than 1,600 front-seat passengers died in frontal crashes in 2014, indicating a need for cars that are safer for all occupants. However, that metric could be misleading, as there’s no data whether they were wearing their seatbelts or what the speed of those crashes were. Put simply, they may have been unsurvivable.
Still, although extra safety features increase cost, complexity, and weight, it’s hard to put a price tag on human life. Automakers have risen to the challenge in the past, and on-road fatalities are lower now than ever before. If the IIHS moves toward including passenger-side safety ratings, there’s nothing to suggest those fatalities won’t continue to drop.
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety