New study reveals SUVs could be better at protecting commuters from side collisions

National/World

(CBS NEWS) – Cars, trucks, and SUVs are safer than ever before, but a new side crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is showing there may be room for improvement.

When the IIHS rolled out its first side crash test in 2003, only about one in five models earned a good rating. Over the years, the auto industry made changes and now almost all of today’s vehicles get high marks.

But as larger trucks and SUVs have become increasingly popular, experts say accidents are more powerful. “When we look at passenger vehicle deaths in the United States, about 23% of those are in side impact collisions,” says IIHS President David Harkey.

Harkey says that’s why his group implemented a tougher side test. The new, larger barrier moves faster and creates 82% more energy.

Researchers put 20 small SUVs through the test and only one, the 2021 Mazda CX-5, received a Good rating. “It did a really good job at preventing injuries,” Harkey said.

The IIHS said nine vehicles earned an Acceptable rating: 2021 Audi Q3, 2021 Buick Encore, 2021 Chevrolet Trax, 2021 Honda CR-V, 2021 Nissan Rogue, 2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Toyota RAV4, 2021 Toyota Venza, and 2021 Volvo XC40.

Eight vehicles earned a Marginal rating, according to IIHS: 2021 Chevrolet Equinox, 2021 Ford Escape, 2021 GMC Terrain, 2021 Hyundai Tucson, 2021 Jeep Compass, 2021 Jeep Renegade, 2021 Kia Sportage, and 2021 Lincoln Corsair.

And the IIHS said two vehicles earned a Poor rating: 2021 Honda HR-V and 2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

CBS News correspondent Naomi Ruchim asked Harkey, “For years, you set a standard for side crash tests and automakers made upgrades to reach them. Is it fair to ask car companies to redesign future cars to meet a new standard?” Harkey answered, “We think it’s very fair. And we have no doubt that the automakers will meet this challenge, they have done so every time we have rolled out a new test.”

The IIHS stresses that most of today’s new vehicles are very safe, but the organization is now pushing auto companies to make them even safer.

The IIHS will eventually test all new cars and trucks with the new side impact standard.

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