The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a group dedicated to making our roads a safer place by making our cars safer. The IIHS tests cars’ safety systems, headlight efficiency, and crashworthiness. These tests culminate with a score, which, in theory, indicates a car’s safety. Last year the IIHS changed the side crash test to be more intense, and new midsized SUVs are excelling.
What are the IIHS ratings?
The IIHS has four ratings: Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and poor. Consumer Reports compiled the list of SUVs and what they scored.
Good rating: Ford Explorer; Infiniti QX60; Lincoln Aviator; Mazda CX-9; Nissan Pathfinder; Subaru Ascent; Toyota Highlander; Volkswagen Atlas; Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport; Volkswagen ID.4
Acceptable rating: Buick Enclave; Chevrolet Traverse
Marginal rating: Honda Passport; Honda Pilot; Hyundai Palisade; Jeep Wrangler 4-door; Kia Telluride; Nissan Murano
Are midsized SUVs safe?
Weirdly, before the IIHS beefed up the side impact test, the smaller and midsized SUVs struggled to score well, Consumer Reports found. In fact, only one vehicle from the segment earned a “Good” on the test.
These manufacturers were a problem because these small SUVs were already on the open market and selling like hotcakes. Now, months later, Consumer Reports says that more than half of the small SUVs are testing well, even with the more rigorous standards.
“It’s encouraging to see so many midsized SUVs from different automakers earn Good ratings in this more challenging evaluation,” says Becky Mueller, IIHS’s senior research engineer. “These results will help confirm the adjustments they need to make to other vehicles going forward.”
How does the IIHS crash-test cars?
The updated test uses a heavier bludgeon moving faster than before to hit the test cars. Researchers at the IIHS believe this new barrier better emulates theoretical car crashes that are more likely to actually happen in the world.
Consumer Reports notes that the weight of the simulated vehicle was increased to 4,200 pounds from 3,300 pounds, and the speed was increased to 37 mph from 31 mph. The result of these changes is an 82 percent increase in striking force.
In order for one of these small SUVs to earn the top score of Good, it must retain good interior structure. Also, the two crash test dummies – one representing a small woman in the driver’s seat and the other a 12-year-old child directly behind her – must indicate a low chance of severe injury or death.
Are cars getting safer?
In theory, yes. In practice, it’s a different story. Consumer Reports says that the IIHS’s projections of road fatalities in 2021 are pretty bleak. The agency estimates that road fatalities might have grown by 10.5 percent from 2020. This percentage represents an increase from 38,824 fatalities in 2020 to 42,915 fatalities in 2021. This is the highest projected number of road deaths since 2005.
Jake Fisher, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center, said, “We hope manufacturers will adapt vehicle design to these changes as quickly as possible.”
He went on to say, “These tests are based on research that indicates these are the types of crashes American motorists are most likely to be involved in. And with the number of road fatalities going up year after year, everyone deserves a better chance to walk away from a crash.”