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Driver-Side Small Overlap Crash Test Ratings Do Not Translate to Good Passenger-Side Safety


Posted on Sep 16, 2016

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluates crash test ratings and other factors to award safety ratings for vehicles sold in the United States. One of these tests is the small overlap crash test rating. In this test, researchers evaluate a simulated crash involving a small portion of the driver-side front-end.

Vehicles with a good rating perform well in this test, protecting drivers from impact-related trauma. But new research found that vehicles with good small overlap tests on the driver side did not necessarily offer adequate protection to passengers. With more than 1,600 right-front passengers dying in crashes during 2014 alone, according to lead study author Becky Mueller of the IIHS, this is an important distinction that needs the attention of car manufacturers.

What is the small overlap test?

Relatively speaking, the small front overlap test that checks for structural stability is a new test. Introduced in 2012, this test came about after the IIHS saw major improvements in vehicles following the introduction of the moderate overlap test. The moderate overlap test – which simulates a crash where 40 percent of the front end of the car receives the impact – was a success, encouraging automakers to improve the structural stability of their passenger compartments through a stronger front structure.

The small overlap test asks simulates a crash where only 25 percent of the front end receives the impact. This is of particular safety importance because a crash at this angle misses a large part of the vehicle’s front structure and relies on secondary framework to protect the driver and passengers.

The IIHS typically conducts the small overlap tests on the driver side of the car, since there is always a driver in a vehicle, as the IIHS explains. To score well on these tests, car companies have improved driver side protection, including adding extra framework. Many have not done the same for the passenger side of the vehicle.

Recently, the IIHS conducted passenger side small overlap tests on seven small SUVs. Researchers found that despite all receiving Good ratings in the driver-side small overlap test, only one received a Good rating in the passenger-side small overlap test.

  • Hyundai Tucson: Good
  • Buick Encore: Acceptable
  • Honda CR-V: Acceptable
  • Mazda CX-5: Acceptable
  • Nissan Rogue: Marginal
  • Subaru Forester: Marginal
  • Toyota RAV4: Poor

What does this mean for my family?

Safety ratings and crash test results play a key role in car buying decisions for families who want to ensure their protection if they are in a crash. For drivers, small overlap testing increased safety in this type of crash. In the four years since this testing began, more than a dozen manufacturers strengthened the framework and added other protections to 97 vehicles sold in the United States

However, these protections may not extend to the passengers in your vehicle. For this reason – and because of the danger of airbags on children – it is always a good idea to ensure your children sit in the backseat and use age-appropriate restraints.

The IIHS may soon begin regular passenger-side small overlap testing and ratings.

How can a car accident attorney help me recover compensation for my crash injuries?

If you suffer injuries in a crash on Georgia roads, the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, PC can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 404-474-0804 to schedule a free case evaluation.

And if you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy these previous blog posts:

IIHS Report: Some Vehicle Headlights Do Not Measure Up

IIHS Reports Turning Off Red Light Cameras Leads to Rise in Fatalities

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