The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new crash test revealed surprising results for some of America’s best-selling cars. When put through a crash test simulating a front-corner crash, many cars performed reasonably well, but others had significant shortcomings that could put drivers and passengers at risk of harm in a car accident.
New crash test measures corner impact
The new test, the small overlap offset frontal crash test, was developed by the IIHS, an insurance industry-funded nonprofit organization. In 2009, the IIHS discovered that almost a quarter of all frontal crashes resulting in severe injuries and fatalities were small overlap crashes, even among vehicles with good safety ratings. The new small overlap offset test was developed to better understand cars’ performance in these types of car accidents and the safety risks involved.
In the test, cars are driven at 40 mph into a barrier. The angle of the crash is set so 25 percent of the front of the car hits the barrier. The test simulates what happens when a corner of a car hits another car or runs into an object like a pole or tree.
According to the IIHS, several factors cause small overlap offset frontal crashes to be especially dangerous. First, side airbags are designed to inflate upon a direct side impact and may not react appropriately to a corner impact, when a passenger may nonetheless move toward the side of vehicle. Further, if the side airbag does deploy, the front and side airbags may leave an open area that does not protect occupants from impact against the dashboard, windowsill or windshield pillar. Finally, in an offset frontal crash, the vehicle moves sideways away from the barrier after impact, but the occupants continue moving forward due to momentum and inertia. This can cause dangerous, damaging contact with the car’s interior structures.
Crash test results
Recently, the IIHS tested 18 midsize family cars in the small overlap offset frontal crash test. The cars’ performance, with ratings of good, acceptable, marginal and poor, was as follows:
- Good: Honda Accord, Suzuki Kizashi
- Acceptable: Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Honda Accord coupe, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat
- Marginal: Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Jetta
- Poor: Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius v
The IIHS reports that the Toyota Camry is the number-one selling midsize sedan in the U.S., but it failed this crash test. The hatchback model of the Prius hybrid car, the Prius v, also earned the lowest safety rating. Other popular cars, like the Volkswagen Jetta, also had less-than-acceptable ratings.
Despite this poor performance, however, the Camry and the Prius still earn an overall Top Safety Pick label from the IIHS. This is because those cars performed well in four other IIHS tests: side-impact tests, moderate overlap offset frontal crash tests, head-restraint tests and roof-strength tests. If a car scores “Good” in four of the five tests, it still may be a Top Safety Pick. If a car rates “Good” in four tests and at least “Acceptable” in a fifth test, it earns a higher safety rating of Top Safety Pick Plus.
Various types of car accidents can cause significant injury to drivers and passengers, and those injured by an unsafe driver may be able to hold the driver accountable. Through a personal injury lawsuit, an injured person may be able to recover compensation for his or her pain and suffering, medical bills, property damage and lost wages while recovering. Contact a personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases if you have been hurt in a crash.