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Top-selling cars earn low safety ratings in new crash test

A new crash test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety measured the performance of 18 midsize family cars, and the results were poor for some of the country’s most popular vehicles. The test measured the cars’ safety performance in a crash where the car hits a barrier at an angle, which is one component of the car’s overall IIHS safety rating.

New front corner crash test

The IIHS, a nonprofit organization funded by the insurance industry, recently added the “small-overlap offset frontal crash test” to its battery of safety tests. In the small-overlap offset crash test, vehicles are driven into a barrier at 40 mph, at an angle at which 25 percent of the car’s front side hits the wall. This type of test intends to replicate a car accident where the front corner of the car hits another vehicle or runs into a tree or utility pole, according to the IIHS.

A 2009 study by the IIHS found that, in vehicles with good safety ratings for frontal crashes, small overlap crashes were responsible for almost 25 percent of all frontal crashes causing serious and fatal injuries to people in the front seats. The IIHS says these types of offset crashes are particularly likely to result in serious injury for a few reasons. First, the side airbags do not always deploy because they are designed to activate on a direct side impact. If they do deploy, there may be a gap between the front and side airbags where an individual could hit the windshield pillar, windowsill or dashboard. Also, after impact the vehicle moves sideways away from the barrier, while inertia keeps the occupant moving forward toward the barrier. This may result in collision with the interior structures of the car.

Poor performance by popular cars

The cars’ performance in the test is rated good, acceptable, marginal or poor. In the small overlap offset frontal crash test for midsize family vehicles, the IIHS reported the following results:

  • Good: Honda Accord, Suzuki Kizashi
  • Acceptable: Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Honda Accord coupe, Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat
  • Marginal: Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Jetta
  • Poor: Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius v hatchback

Perhaps surprisingly, the Camry, America’s top-selling midsize sedan, failed the test. So did the hatchback model of the Prius hybrid car.

The results of the small overlap test are combined with those from a moderate overlap offset frontal test, a side-impact test, a roof-strength test and a head-restraint test to produce an overall IIHS safety rating. The Camry and the Prius v remain Top Safety Picks by the IIHS despite their “Poor” ratings in the new test because they scored “Good” in the other four tests. A higher safety rating, Topic Safety Pick +, applies to cars that score “Good” in four categories and at least “Acceptable” in the fifth.

Car accidents of any kind can result in serious injuries, and when someone is injured because of another driver’s unsafe behavior, legal recourse may be available. An injured person may be able to sue the driver in a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for his or her injuries, medical expenses, lost wages while away from work and property damage. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver, contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.

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