RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Fatal car crashes are on the rise according to a new report by the federal government. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said fatal crashes increased by almost 11 percent in 2021.

With those numbers increasing and with more of us buying bigger, heavier cars, the Insurance Institute for Highway safety said better tests are needed for the quite common side impact crash. 

For two decades, the institute has required carmakers to pass a test for side impact crashes as part of its Top Safety pick program. Now, it’s upping the bar when it comes to side crash protection.

The side impact, or T-Bone crash, is most commonly seen at intersections, and it can have serious or fatal consequences. 

CBS 17 captured a T-Bone crash in Fayetteville previously (Courtesy of Steve Sbraccia).

“It’s very dangerous because there’s very little room inside the vehicle to have any kind of energy absorption in the crash,” IIHS President David Harkey said. 

The Institute’s latest round of tests are now being conducted with a heavier test vehicle that moves at a higher speed. That’s because in the last twenty years SUVs have gotten heavier and crash speeds have increased. 

The new test uses a 4,200-pound barrier striking the vehicle at 37 mph, instead of the previous 3,300-pound barrier that struck the vehicle at 31 mph. 

Harkey said that produces 82 percent more energy in the collision tests. 

He said one of the things engineers look for is how well the occupant compartment remains intact for the driver and passengers in these improved tests. 

Of the 18 midsize SUVs tested, 10 received good ratings, two were acceptable and six were marginal.

The VW ID 4 is an example of what should happen if a vehicle is struck from the side.  

“There was very little intrusion into the occupant compartment, so the driver and passenger were well protected,” Harkey said. 

The Nissan Murano was one of a half dozen vehicles that did marginally. 

Harkey explained why the Murano and five others did so poorly. 

“That’s because of significant intrusion into the occupant compartment,” he said. “It resulted in a higher likelihood of both chest injury and pelvic injury for the driver.” 

These new tests go far above anything the federal government is requiring right now. 

Last fall, small SUVs struggled when they were tested by the institute using the new, improved test standards.

During those tests, only one out of twenty small SUVs managed a good rating, while half were rated marginal or poor. 

Vehicles can be rated on many things and given an overall grade of good-poor on a scale (IIHS).

This time around, ten out of eighteen midsize SUVs earned good ratings. 

These included:

  • The Ford Explorer;
  • Infiniti QX60;
  • Lincoln Aviator;
  • Mazda CX-9;
  • Nissan Pathfinder;
  • Subaru Ascent;
  • Toyota Highlander;
  • Volkswagen Atlas;
  • Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport;
  • Volkswagen ID.4, the only electric vehicle in the group. 

Two earned acceptable ratings. They were: The Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. 

Meanwhile, six others were rated marginally:

  • The Honda Passport;
  • Honda Pilot;
  • Hyundai Palisade;
  • Jeep Wrangler 4-door;
  • Kia Telluride;
  • Nissan Murano.