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IIHS Crash Test Reveals SUV Safety Concerns

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released its findings on the newest crash test for mid-size sport utility vehicles, and the results may leave some drivers feeling a little uneasy. The IIHS is an independent research organization that submits vehicles to more demanding tests than the government standard, producing an annual list of “top safety picks” and exposing popular models that do not pass the especially strict crash tests. Of the nine major models analyzed in the “small overlap test,” only two passed with the highest rating of “good” while three popular models failed with the lowest possible rating of “poor.”

The small overlap test was introduced about a year and a half ago, and requires cars to travel 40 miles per hour into a rigid barrier. It differs from the government frontal crash test because the impact is concentrated to the left front corner of the car. According to the IIHS, “the small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.” Because only 25 percent of the vehicle’s front end strikes the barrier, it is difficult for the car to redistribute energy away from the driver and the occupant compartment can collapse.

The following mid-size sport utility vehicles were submitted to the IIHS small overlap test:
• GMC Terrain • Chevrolet Equinox • Toyota Highlander • Jeep Grand Cherokee • Honda Pilot • Ford Explorer • Toyota 4Runner • Kia Sorrento • Mazda CX-9
Of the nine tested, only the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox passed the test with a “good” rating. Chevrolet is a division of General Motors, as is GMC, and the Terrain and Equinox are often referred to as “body twins.” The Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and Kia Sorrento all failed with a “poor” rating. While the test uses six points of data collection in the test, the findings were focused on two specific areas: survival space for the driver after the crash and the protection offered by the car’s airbag system.

Because the small overlap test intentionally bypasses the main structures of the vehicle’s front-end crush zone, the passenger cavity must withstand extreme pressure to maintain enough space around the driver’s body to prevent injury and allow him or her to exit the vehicle safely. The added stress can cause the roof to collapse and parts of the dashboard, steering column, and pedals to shift forward into the cavity, pinning the driver in the seat and potentially causing serious or fatal injuries. In addition, it is crucial that the occupant’s head, neck, and body are cushioned by the airbags. Any gaps could result in serious injury or death if the head comes in contact with rigid surfaces at a high speed.

According to the IIHS, the Terrain and Equinox were able to withstand the test thanks to “modifications on 2014 models to their front structure and door-hinge pillars.” Results concluded that, “driver space was well-maintained, and the dummy’s movement was well-controlled. The dummy’s head hit the frontal airbag and stayed there.”

In contrast, the Honda Pilot was the worst performer of the group. The survival space for the driver was “severely compromised.” The parking brake petal was pushed inward more than a foot, and the dummy’s head slid right off the frontal airbag as the steering column shifted almost six inches to the right. Data analyzed from the test is consistent with serious injuries to the hip, knee, and lower leg.

Technology has made incredible advancements in vehicle safety, saving millions of lives every year. However, car accidents remain a serious threat for drivers. The CDC reports that, “in the United States, a person is treated in an emergency room for car-accident related injuries every ten seconds.”

Injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident can be extremely painful and life-altering. Victims may not be able to return to work or participate in everyday activities. Often they are left to deal with the physical, emotional, and financial aftermath without any assistance. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, Altman & Altman would like to help. Even if there is a criminal case against the person that you believe caused your Massachusetts personal injury accident or a loved one’s wrongful death, you may also be able to pursue a civil case to sue for damages. You should contact a Boston injury lawyer right away to find out whether to proceed with this route.

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