New crash tests could affect your new car decision

A tough new crash test has recently been flunking a lot of cars, and safety-focused shoppers considering a vehicle that has yet to be tested under the new standard might want to consider holding off for now.

“We’re trying to raise the bar, and get our test to reflect what is happening in the real world,” said Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president David Harkey.

The IIHS’ new test — of a side-impact crash — uses a heavier moving barrier that slams into a vehicle at a higher speed than before. The weight of the barrier now more accurately reflects that of a modern mid-size SUV, the IIHS says. The group adds that side impacts account for nearly a quarter of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Already in the new side test, several small SUVs and mid-size cars have earned ratings of “poor” or “marginal,” which is the second-worst rating. Several mid-size SUVs earned a marginal rating as well.

A poor rating is indicative of a higher risk of severe or even deadly injury, Harkey said.

“We have a long history with the automakers [where] each time we roll out a new test, there are often poor and acceptable and marginal results — anything less than our top rating of good,” he said.

Next up for the new side test are mid-size pickups, such as the Ford Ranger, and small cars including the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Those tests are set to begin in early fall, with results expected by the end of the year.

Harkey said IIHS expects to get to luxury SUVs late this year or early next year.

“What we are doing is trying to raise the bar for the next generation” of vehicles, Harkey said. He maintained that cars which received a good rating under the old standard are “still extremely safe vehicles.”

Another change on the way could also pose a new challenge to automakers: Harkey says that later this year, the IIHS plans to begin to putting a dummy in the rear seat during certain frontal crash tests.

CLICK TO EXPAND: The Honda Accord received a marginal rating in the new side-impact tests, the IIHS’s second-worst. (Courtesy IIHS)

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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