Only two of the 15 small SUVs recently evaluated in a new crash test protected rear passengers well enough to earn high marks, the Volvo XC40 and the Ford Escape. Nine small SUVs, including the popular Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, were among the worst performers.
Updated moderate overlap frontal crash test ratings were released Tuesday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit organization funded by the insurance industry.
“Thanks to improvements made by automakers, drivers of most vehicles are almost 50% less likely to be killed in a frontal crash today than they were 25 years ago,” David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute, said in a statement. “Our updated test challenges manufacturers to bring those same benefits to the backseat. The outstanding performance of the Escape and XC40 shows that it is possible.
The recent assessment is the first frontal crash test in the United States to include a rear occupant dummy, the safety group said, which in this case represented a small woman or 12-year-old child. The new test was designed to close a growing gap in front and rear occupant protection and to encourage automakers to improve rear seat passenger safety.
The Insurance Institute’s initial evaluation focused on protections for the driver’s head and minimizing the risk of other types of injury, but new test results indicated that most of them did not. not provide adequate protection for the rear passenger’s head and neck “the most vulnerable areas of the body.”
A recent Insurance Institute assessment of actual crashes indicated that rear passengers were frequently injured more seriously than front occupants.
The back seat hasn’t become less safe, the researchers say, but due to major improvements to the front seat, progress hasn’t kept pace.
The highest rating in the institute assessments is good, followed by acceptable, marginal, or poor. Each vehicle received a rating overall and in ten sub-categories, including safety and cabin structure, guards to prevent injury to specific areas of the drivers’ and rear passengers’ bodies, and the effectiveness of retainers.
The best-selling Toyota RAV4 got an acceptable rating, and the Audi Q3, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester were rated marginal.
In addition to the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Jeep Renegade and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross received low ratings.
“Not so long ago, rear seat passengers were significantly less likely to be killed in an offset frontal crash than the driver or front passenger, because the biggest survival factor was the crumpling of the ‘front of the passenger compartment,’ said the insurance. Institute noted. “Now, however, there is virtually no cabin deformation in the moderate overlap test. In addition, automakers have added airbags and advanced seat belts to the front seats, but not often to the front seats. As a result, in vehicles from model year 2007, the risk of fatal injury is 46% higher for occupants restrained in the rear than in the front.
In the front seat, for example, crash tensioners tighten the seat belts as soon as a crash begins so the occupant’s body begins to slow with the vehicle, preventing it from flying forward, said researchers. Force limiters, which allow part of the webbing to roll up, help reduce the risk of chest injuries, the most common serious rear-seat injury for adults.
Less than half of new vehicles have advanced rear-seat restraint systems, the safety group said, but rear-seat occupants could benefit from advanced seat belts and airbags.
For more information, including details on each of the SUVs reviewed, click here.