SUVs don’t handle side-impact crashes well, study shows


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Our driving preferences are changing, moving towards bigger and heavier vehicles, and with those changes comes increased danger from side collisions.

New impact tests by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety indicate a lot of today’s SUVs don’t handle those side crashes well.

In a side-impact crash, you have to worry about the intrusion of a crash vehicle into the passenger compartment. The more intrusion, the more dangerous for its occupants.

A 2011 study by the IIHS found that vehicles that earned good side-impact ratings have lower driver death risk.

IIHS President David Harkey said T-bone or side-impact crashes are all too common.

Side-impact crashes can be deadly. Statistics show 23 percent of accident fatalities are due to side-impact crashes.

Those crashes are getting more intense due to heavier vehicles on the road.

“We have a lot more pickups and SUVs in the fleet and the speeds are often higher,” said Harkey.

To account for that, the IIHS changed its side-impact tests, designing a bigger, more powerful testing unit with a larger impact zone. They use it to crash into vehicles from the side at 37 miles per hour.

“It has now been resigned to reflect a crash profile that occurs when modern-day SUV of pickup truck strikes another vehicle,” said Harkey.

The IIHS tested 20 SUVs.

Only the Mazda CX-5 achieved a good rating. Nine others were acceptable, eight were marginal and two were rated poor including the Honda HR-V.

Referring to the HR-V Harkey said, “The B-Pillar actually tore away from the structure of the vehicle, so the barrier intruded almost halfway into the driver’s seat.”

In some side crash impact tests, the IIHS discovered airbags also didn’t perform as well as they should have to protect the occupants in side crashes.

“They’ll have to increase the strength of doors or put structures in the doors to prevent that intrusion,” said Harkey.

Making improvements won’t be a quick fix for automakers, because they will have to make design changes in order to meet the IIHS new side-impact crash test standards.

Harkey says automakers have done it in the past and believes they will do it again to get Top Safety Pick ratings for their vehicles.

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