For 25 years, crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety focused on how well vehicles protect people in the front seat. Now those tests include passengers in the back.
“We’re measuring the likelihood of injury to that rear passenger that’s now seated right behind the driver,” says IIHS President David Harkey.
Researchers tested 15 small SUV’s, slamming the vehicles into a barrier at 40 miles per hour with an adult size dummy in the front and a dummy about the size of a 12-year-old in the back.
All of the vehicles tested received high marks for preventing injuries to the driver. But when the rear passenger was factored in, nine vehicles received a poor rating:
- Buick Encore
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Tucson
- Jeep Compass
- Jeep Renegade
- Mazda CX-5
- Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Marginal grades went to the Audi Q3, Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester. The Toyota RAV4 was given an acceptable rating.
Only the Volvo XC40 and the Ford Escape earned a good overall grade for reducing the likelihood of injury to the back seat passenger.
During testing, in vehicles given a poor rating, the dummy’s head turned violently before slamming into the seat, in another SUV the head actually went under the airbag on the widow and hit the window frame.
The IIHS says part of the problem is the seat belts. In the front seat vehicles have belts with a tension system that mitigates the force of the crash, the nine SUVs rated poor did not have those same belts in the back seat.
“Adding this kind of technology in the rear seat could certainly reduce the likelihood of you being severely injured or killed when riding in the rear of the vehicle,” Harkey says.
The IIHS says automakers are aware of the findings and some are already making changes, including adding improved seatbelts.