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Where are your children seated when you take the family to dinner or a movie? Many drivers attempt to adhere to car safety beliefs and guidelines with children buckled in the vehicle’s rear seat. Unfortunately, this might be more dangerous than the front seats, especially if you’re driving potentially one of the most unsafe SUVs for rear-seat passengers.

How do we know rear-seat passengers might be unsafe in some SUVs?

IIHS rear seat safety test 2021 Honda HR-V poor
The back seat of a 2021 Honda HR-V during the IIHS’s updated moderate overlap front test | IIHS

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently updated an aspect of its moderate overlap front test in which a crash-test dummy is placed in the rear seat. This new IIHS rear-seat crash test uses a dummy the size of a 12-year-old. Some of the results are alarming.

In general, these new crash test results show that people in the rear seats are 46% more at risk of a fatal injury than those in the front seats. That’s troublesome for parents because children sit in the back.

Should rear passengers benefit from the same safety restraints as front-seat occupants?

Many would think the answer is obviously yes and wonder why rear-seat passengers aren’t offered the same restraints as those in the front. Since adopting front crash tests, the focus has been on making the front passenger compartment as safe as possible.

Before crumple zones, airbags, and advanced seat belts were developed, rear passengers were much less likely to be injured in a crash. Now the script has flipped, and front passengers are much safer.

Which midsize SUVs earned unacceptable safety ratings?

2023 Mazda CX-9 Parked in a Fire Lane - This Midsize SUV Received a Safety Rating of Poor in the new IIHS Rear-Seat Crash Test
2023 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

The IIHS tested 13 midsize SUVs to determine the safety ratings in its updated moderate overlap front test. The results show nine of the 13 received unacceptable scores:

  • 2023 Chevrolet Traverse – Marginal
  • 2023 Toyota Highlander – Marginal
  • 2023 Volkswagen Atlas – Marginal
  • 2022 Honda Pilot – Poor
  • 2023 Hyundai Palisade – Poor
  • 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Poor
  • 2023 Jeep Wrangler Four-Door – Poor
  • 2023 Mazda CX-9 – Poor
  • 2023 Nissan Murano – Poor

Which compact SUVs received unacceptable safety ratings?

IIHS rear seat safety test: 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross poor
A 2022 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross after the IIHS’s updated moderate overlap front test | IIHS

The compact SUVs didn’t perform any better than the midsize models during this new IIHS crash test. The agency tested 15 models to determine compact SUV safety ratings, and 12 received unacceptable scores. They are as follows:

  • 2023 Audi Q3 – Marginal
  • 2023 Nissan Rogue – Marginal
  • 2023 Subaru Forester – Marginal
  • 2022 Buick Encore – Poor
  • 2023 Chevrolet Equinox – Poor
  • 2022 Honda CR-V – Poor
  • 2022 Honda HR-V – Poor
  • 2021 Hyundai Tucson – Poor
  • 2021 Jeep Compass – Poor
  • 2023 Jeep Renegade – Poor
  • 2022 Mazda CX-5 – Poor
  • 2023 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross – Poor

Did any SUVs pass the new IIHS rear-seat crash test?

A 2021 Toyota RAV4 after a IIHS rear seat safety test
A 2021 Toyota RAV4 after the IIHS’s updated moderate overlap front test | IIHS

Could many failures mean the test is too strict and impractical? Sometimes that happens, but in this case, four midsize SUVs received “Good” safety ratings in the IIHS’s updated moderate overlap front test. Additionally, two compact SUVs received a “Good” rating, and one received an “Acceptable.” They are as follows:

  • 2023 Ford Explorer- Good
  • 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E – Good
  • 2023 Subaru Ascent – Good
  • 2023 Tesla Model Y – Good
  • 2023 Ford Escape – Good
  • 2023 Volvo XC40 – Good
  • 2023 Toyota RAV4 – Acceptable

If you want to ensure your children are protected in the rear seat, look for midsize and compact SUVs with an IIHS safety rating of “Good” or “Acceptable.” It won’t be long before more SUVs hit the “Good” and “Acceptable” marks, but the current list is pretty short.