Stricter IIHS Side Crash Test Will Raise The Bar (Again)

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - November 22, 2019

Every so often, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) changes its requirements for a vehicle to be named either a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+. We saw it happen with headlights, as the institute now requires vehicles to have Good-rated headlights in order to be eligible for its highest award. Now, the IIHS is changing its requirements by adding a new, more challenging side crash test.

Starting next year, vehicles that go through the IIHS’ crash tests will be put through a more grueling side crash test, which will involve a higher impact speed and a more realistic movable barrier that’s heavier, claims the institute. The organization is introducing a new side crash test because it believes that automakers are doing so well in the test that it’s hard for consumers to differentiate which vehicles did better than others. It’s also a way for the IIHS to ensure automakers are still trying to improve the safety of their vehicles.

IIHS Side Crash Test

The last time the IIHS made changes to its side crash test was in 2003 when it was introduced. It became a part of the IIHS’ crash tests because the institute felt that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) side test wasn’t challenging enough. Fast forward to today, and 99% of the vehicles that the IIHS has rated earned a rating of Good. Despite the large number of vehicles that earn the IIHS’ highest rating in the test, the institute claims that side impacts still account for 23% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2018. So the IIHS thinks it’s time for automakers to step up their game, again.

“Our goal is to create a barrier that creates the same type of damage as a typical late-model SUV or pickup would in a 37 mph crash,” said Becky Mueller, IIHS Senior Research Engineer. “That way, we can be confident that the changes automakers make in hopes of achieving good ratings in the new side test will result in better protection for vehicle occupants in real-world crashes.”

At the moment, the side crash test sees vehicles get hit on the driver’s side with a 3,300-pound SUV-like-barrier that’s traveling at 31 mph. Two SID-IIs dummies that represent small women or a 12-year-old child are positioned in the driver’s seat and the seat behind the driver. The IIHS takes measurements from the dummies to see if a human would sustain injuries to their head, neck, abdomen, chest, femur, or pelvis.

Another area that the IIHS is looking into includes pedestrian detection. More vehicles are coming with automatic emergency braking systems with pedestrian detection as standard, which prompted the institute to take a look at how well the systems did in a more demanding test. Out of the 16 vehicles the IIHS tested, only six earned the highest rating of Superior. So it’s very possible that the institute could introduce a stricter test for front crash prevention systems in the near future.

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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