The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has many rigorous tests that determine its safety ratings for the more than 200 models of cars and trucks available to consumers. Vehicles must prove their crashworthiness in tests of how well the front and sides protect their occupants. Other factors such as roof strength and head restraint performance are tested as well. In another measure of safety, a small overlap frontal crash test simulates what happens when the driver’s side of the vehicle hits a pole or tree.
This offset test proved difficult for a number of vehicles when it was first introduced five years ago. The results spurred automakers to make improvements such as extending bumpers, providing larger side-curtain airbags, and strengthening the passenger compartments.
The success of these safety improvements to the driver’s side brought to light the fact that now passengers in the front need similar protections. To that end the IIHS has a small overlap test for the passenger side of vehicles. Overlap tests are more rigorous than direct frontal crash tests and show the effectiveness of the airbag, seatbelt, and outer edges of the car not included in the crush zone.
The passenger side small overlap test was first used on 13 models of midsize cars. Of these, 10 vehicles earned a rating of good. Two, the Volkswagen Passat and Chevrolet Malibu, achieved only marginal results, and the Volkswagen Jetta was deemed acceptable. The 10 cars receiving good marks were as follows:
Critics of the test say that the IIHS is supported by the insurance industry, which has an interest in reducing claim costs. They note that while offset collisions can produce serious lower body injuries, they are not a major cause of fatalities. However, senior engineers at IIHS see passenger head protection as an urgent safety issue. Passenger test dummies in the Passat and Malibu, the cars that received marginal grades, slid off the front airbag and hit their heads on the dashboard during the offset collision test. Optimizing the seatbelt and airbag performance could prevent this. In comparison, the Subaru models were particularly effective in protecting passengers, showing low-risk of injury in a real-life crash.
More cars will undergo the new test in the coming months and the results will be available on the IIHS website. Crash tests are useful not only for determining which cars and trucks are safest, but also to root out defects so that they can be addressed and improved, thus avoiding recalls and product liability lawsuits for carmakers.
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a product defect, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the experienced Wilmington personal injury lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. to review your legal options. Call 302-656-5445 today or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. From our Wilmington and Georgetown offices, we proudly represent clients throughout the state, including those in Dover, New Castle, and Newark, Delaware.