Most small SUVs pass updated insurance industry crash tests – Business News

Most small SUVs pass updated insurance industry crash tests – Business News

Most small SUVs passed the latest crash tests conducted by the insurance industry, but oddly enough, they’re just as safe as ever.

That’s because the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has updated the test, putting more emphasis on keeping backseat passengers safe.

Only the Ford Escape and Volvo XC40 earned a “good” rating in this year’s tests released Tuesday. The Toyota RAV4 was “acceptable,” while the Audi Q3, Nissan Rogue, and Subaru Forester were “marginal.”

The rest, Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-5 and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross earned the lower grade of “poor.”

IIHS President David Harkey said the test is being changed because vehicle structures, airbags and seat belts make SUVs safer for rear-seat passengers than those in the back. Now, the risk of fatal injury is 46 percent higher for back-seat passengers than front-seat drivers, Harkey said.

“We focused earlier on how protected the driver was,” Harkey said. “It’s not like the vehicle has become safer.”

The institute changes the widely-watched tests in an effort to get automakers to make safety improvements, and Harkey says they usually respond to the changes.

Although seat belts restrain rear-seat passengers, they are susceptible to head and neck injuries, and in many SUVs, the belts are relatively low-tech and tighten in a crash.

The new seat belts have sensors that determine when a crash is imminent and move a passenger into the proper seat before a crash, slowing the passenger’s speed with the vehicle, Harkey said. After the crash, they loosen the seat belts slightly to prevent them from traveling up through the pelvis and into the abdomen, where they can cause serious internal injuries, he said.

Some automakers have already put more sophisticated seat belts in the rear seats, something that can be done without a major model update, Harkey said. “The industry has always been good at responding to the tests we’ve presented,” he said. “In this case we hope they will, and we hope they can do it quickly.”

The institute used a crash dummy representing a small woman or a 12-year-old child to test rear-seat passenger injuries, and Harkey says the dummy shows the risk to passengers of all sizes.

When the IIHS introduced the moderate overlap frontal crash test in 1995, most vehicles scored poor or marginal. Automakers responded with stronger structures and airbags to make front-seat drivers safer, and 15 small SUV models were getting good reviews.

In the original moderate-overlap test, a vehicle drives into an aluminum barrier at 40 mph. About 40% of the vehicle’s width hits the driver’s side barrier.

Some SUVs tested have more sophisticated rear seat belts, but the timing needs to be improved to work better in the milliseconds before and after a crash, Harkey said. “Now they have to go back and figure out if they’re shooting at the right time?” he said.

Small SUVs are the most popular new vehicles sold in the US. So far this year, compact and subcompact SUVs together account for 23.4% of all new vehicle sales, according to

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