Large Vehicles Fails Crash Tests
By Anthony Fontanelle

In an effort to provide auto buyers with safe cars, safety institutes are providing auto buyers with recommendations which are the results of crash tests. While car manufacturers are concerned about the safety of their consumers, there are still vehicles which are not as safe as some.

Recently, it was found out that head restraints of several SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans are not able to provide adequate protection. The finding is that on rear collisions, head restraints of some large vehicles provide poor or marginal protection. Head restraints are supposed to protect passengers from neck injury in the unfortunate event of a rear collision.

Although there are several SUVs which have been given good ratings on rear collision crash protection tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that among vehicles which have performed poorly on their crash tests includes automobiles made by BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, and Toyota.

According to the IIHS, the crash tests were done with the vehicle with speeds of 20 miles per hour. Even at this speed, certain vehicles are not able to protect their passengers. According to the IIHS, the fact that large vehicles are not able to adequately protect its passengers leads to 2 million insurance claims which are estimated to cost the insurance industry about $8.5 billion every year.

“In stop-and-go commuter traffic, you're more likely to get in a rear-end collision than any other crash type,” said David Zuby, the vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “It's not a major feat of engineering to design seats and head restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes.”

The IIHS conducted the crash tests on 87 automobiles available in the market today. The tests include determining the protection that the vehicles’ head restraints offer to occupants. Out of the 87 vehicles, fifty-four are rated poor or marginal; the two lowest ratings given by the Institute. Twelve vehicles received “acceptable” ratings which is the second highest rating given by IIHS. Twenty-one vehicles received the highest rating of “good”.

In response to this, car manufacturers pointed out that their own safety tests are good indicators whether their head restraints can provide adequate protection. “We feel our test procedures are good predictors of how well our seat/head restraints will protect occupants from neck injuries in the event of a rear impact,” pointed out Bill Kwong speaking for Toyota.

Meanwhile, the IIHS’ Adrian Lund pointed out in an interview that they are seeing an improvement in the safety of new vehicles but not all vehicles are improving in terms of safety. “We're seeing some improvement, but it's not across the board,” said Lund. We still have a lot of vehicles out there that we rate as marginal poor. In fact, 59 percent of the SUVs and pickups and minivans that we evaluated we gave marginal or poor rating for their whiplash protection.”

According to the IIHS, the vehicles which performed poorly in their crash tests are the following: the BMW X3 with its BMW X3 parts and the X5 model; Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Isuzu Ascender; Cadillac SRX; Chrysler Pacifica; Dodge Nitro; Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer; Mitsubishi Endeavor; Hummer H3; Hyundai Tucson; Jeep Liberty; Kia Sportage; Lexus GX470 and RX; Nissan Xterra; Saab 9-7X; Suzuki XL7; Toyota 4Runner and the Highlander.

Although these vehicles posted poor marks in the crash tests conducted by the IIHS, Lund said that consumers need to make sure that their head is well positioned by adjusting the height of head restraints.

Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.

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