Are Automakers Neglecting Passenger Safety?


The driver is much more protected, while the passenger is neglected, evidence suggests.

Back in 2012, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was busy scratching its head trying to find out why so many people were dying in frontal collisions even though its own tests had concluded that the wrecked vehicles should have been safe. It concluded that its testing methods didn't sufficiently prove that a vehicle could handle the stress of an accident, so it added the front small overlap test to its barrage of examinations.

Statistically, 20-25% of accident deaths involved these types of crashes that the small overlap test assesses for. Many reputable automakers failed the first round of tests, but structural reinforcements were added and soon enough, there were plenty of vehicles that were rated as "good," the highest crash test rating that the IIHS gives, on the small front overlap crash test. The problem is, the test only evaluates the structural integrity of the driver's side since at minimum, a car is always transporting a driver. The idea was that automakers would start adding stopgap reinforcements on the driver's side to pass tests and gradually begin to add the same safety features onto the passenger's side of the car.

Here we see just how these seemingly small discrepancies can add up.

However, a recent analysis by the IIHS has found that this isn't the case. The IIHS tested 7 small SUVs to confirm this. Out of the seven, the 2015 Toyota RAV4 was the only to receive a "poor" rating for allowing 13 more inches of intrusion on the passenger's side than on the driver's during the test. Cars that were given a "marginal" rating were the 2014 Nissan Rouge and 2014 Subaru Forester while the 2015 Buick Encore, 2015 Honda CR-V, and 2015 Mazda CX-5 all received "acceptable" ratings. Only the 2016 Hyundai Tucson was rated as "good." The IIHS threatened to add the passenger category to its tests if automakers don't add equal reinforcement to the passenger side, which should get them to start taking passenger safety more seriously.

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