Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that only two compact SUVs – among the most popular vehicles on American roads – passed the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) overlap crash tests. The Subaru Forester (pictured) earned the best marks, while the second, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, earned an “acceptable” rating.
The IIHS’s “small overlap crash test” replicates a crash involving the vehicle and a fixed object, such as a pole, tree, or parked car. In combination with other safety tests, such as the standard frontal, rear, and side crash tests, the Mitsubishi and Subaru models were the only two of 13 models to earn the Top Safety Pick+. Each of these two vehicles was recently redesigned with close attention to crash safety.
The vice president for vehicle research at IIHS stated that Subaru and Mitsubishi represent exactly what the institute hoped manufacturers would do to improve protection for passengers in these types of crashes. An IIHS spokesperson stated that two thirds of all small SUVs involved in the tests were rated poorly for structural integrity, and about half received poor or insignificant scores for passenger restraint (when the test dummies crash into hard interior surfaces).
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For example, in testing the Nissan Rogue, the SUV’s door frame was pushed so far into the passenger compartment that it nearly collapsed into the driver’s seat. In another test, with the Jeep Patriot, the safety belt not only completely failed to restrain the test dummy, but the side curtain airbag failed to deploy as well. The Jeep’s steering wheel also moved eight inches up and six inches to the right upon impact, causing the driver dummy’s head to slide off the front airbag.
There is, however, a regular Top Safety Pick (minus the +), which includes other tests, such as standard frontal and rollover tests. About ten small SUVs earned this designation: the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tuscon, Kia Sportage, Jeep Patriot, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV-4, and Volkswageon Tiguan.
The Top Safety Picks+ designation, however, includes testing for crashes that account for more than a quarter of all roadway fatalities. In the overlap test (the test only the Subaru and Mitsubishi SUVs passed), vehicles crash going 40 MPH with only 25% of the driver’s side front end hitting a five-foot rigid barrier. These tests are supposed to evaluate the crashworthiness of a vehicle’s outer edges (which are not as structurally protected) as well as airbags and seatbelts more rigorously than frontal crash tests. Overlap tests are important because these types of impacts contribute to the most fatalities; frontal crashes usually result in minor broken bones.
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Small overlap crashes are so dangerous largely because the vehicle tends to spin uncontrollably after the impact, causing occupants to move within the car (even with seat belts on), away from the areas that are most protected by the airbags. As seen in the Jeep Patriot, vehicles can actually contort during the crash, so airbags wind up being in the wrong location altogether.
Among those that earned a “poor” rating in the overlap test include the Buick Encore, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, and Jeep Patriot. In contrast, this is not the first time the Subaru Forester has excelled in IIHS crash tests. In 2003, when the Institute first started reviewing small SUVs for side protection, the Forester performed the best was, just as it is now, one of only two models to earn good ratings. With the exception of the Forester (a 2014 model), all small SUVs were tested on 2013 or 2014. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any new or significant developments in vehicular research, tests, and technology. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another, you have important legal rights. Our attorneys can help you gain maximum compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress caused by the auto accident.