Study Indicates Sub-Compact Cars Expose Occupants to Greater Risk of Severe Injury


December 30, 2014

It was not so long ago that SUVs were the family car of choice because of their capacity to accommodate multiple passengers and their cargo.  Buyer preferences have shifted as purchasers focus on fuel economy because of tough economic times and high gas prices.  While smaller vehicles might be easier on the wallet, a new study suggests that the shift from SUVs to semi-compact vehicles has come at the expense of reduced safety for vehicle occupants. 

A new study conducted by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) raises concerns about the tradeoff between fuel efficiency and safety offered by these minicars.  Fourteen different types of minicars were subjected to crash testing with the vehicles assigned ratings listed from best to worst: “good”, “acceptable”, “fair” or “poor”.  The IIHS report found that none of the twelve subcompacts tested earned a “good” in crash testing.  Even more concerning, half the vehicle tested earned a “poor” safety rating.

The IIHS subjected the vehicles to its new small overlap test that was originally developed in 2012.  The test evaluates the way the driver and passengers fare if a quarter of the front end of the vehicle collides with a fixed object like a utility pole or tree at a speed of forty mile per hour.  This form of IIHS crash testing differs from testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which evaluates the impact on vehicle occupants of a full frontal impact with a fixed barrier at 35 miles per hour.  The IIHS adopted the overlap test because of concerns about the ability of vehicles to withstand and disperse the energy from a crash when the impact if focused on a smaller area of the vehicle.

Despite their popularity, the Toyota Prius C., Nissan Versa and the Honda Fit were among the vehicles that received a “poor” rating.  The Honda Fit was determined to be the vehicle that posed the highest risk of injuring or killing a driver in a small frontal overlap collision.  The steering column was forced so far into the passenger compartment of the vehicle that the crash test dummy’s head slid off the air bag and into the instrument panel.  Honda’s response to the IIHS test was to claim that the 2015 model of the Honda Fit will receive a “good” rating when submitted to the same crash test.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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