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Small SUVs Protect Maryland Drivers, Put Passengers at Risk

Posted on: August 6, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced crash test findings on seven small SUVs for the 2018 model year, and the results should cause concern for front side passengers. One particular type of test puts passengers at risk of severe injury because, while drivers are well-protected in a crash, those sitting to the right of them are not. This is extremely disturbing for the potential victims, but it is also troubling for owners of the affected SUVs. The majority of the time, it will be someone you love occupying that seat.

In its report on the crash test findings, the IIHS urged automakers to make improvements and offered specific details on how they can reduce the risk of serious injuries to passengers. Still, the tests were conducted on just seven 2018 small SUV models, so there is still an almost immeasurable number of vehicles on the road that do not make passenger safety a priority.

Overview of the IIHS Test Conditions and Process

Every year, the IIHS conducts a series of tests on vehicles and assigns each one an overall safety rating based upon two criteria:

  • Crashworthiness: This factor measures how well a vehicle protects drivers and passengers in the event of a crash. The IIHS looks at performance on various features and how they can withstand a crash at 40 miles per hour, as well as how the roof can withstand pressure before caving in.
  • Crash Avoidance and Mitigation: With this component, the IIHS looks at a vehicle’s systems and other features that can prevent an accident or reduce the impact of a collision. The autobraking capabilities and availability of a forward collision warning system are key factors. In addition, a vehicle’s headlights are weighed in the context of their ability to prevent an accident.

There are four ratings under the IIHS system: Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor.

IIHS Findings for Passengers in Small SUVs: In 2012, the IIHS implemented a small overlap crash test. Researchers created a scenario of what would happen if the front corner of a vehicle collided with a stationary object or another vehicle. This test was conducted to determine the strength of the car on the driver’s side.

In the last year, the IIHS expanded its assessment to include the threat of injury to passengers via the Passenger-Side Small Overlap Front Crash Test. When reviewing seven vehicles in the small SUV class, none received a “Good” rating for passenger-side structure when tested at the test standard of 40 miles per hour.

The primary concern with many of the SUVs was structure and intrusion on the passenger side. Upon impact, the metal shell was pushed into the passenger compartment near where an occupant’s feet, legs, thighs, and lower body would be situated. Some structural components would intrude up to 10 inches within the compartment, as compared to five inches on the driver’s side. In addition, the passenger door on some models pushed up to four inches into the seat area.

Automakers Respond to Passenger Risks

In its recent findings, the IIHS commended some car manufacturers that had made significant improvements on driver’s side safety over previous years. However, the agency emphasized that more work is needed to protect passengers. While five of the seven small SUVs tested were rated Good overall and earned Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+, none performed as well in certain subcategories for the passenger side.

Because automakers earned high ratings on the safety features implement to protect drivers, it is clear that manufacturers know what is necessary to safeguard a vehicle’s occupants. However, until recently, they were not rated on their protections for passengers. Now that the IIHS has implemented the Passenger-Side Small Overlap Front Crash Test, automakers will no doubt focus more attention in this critical area.

Types of Injuries Passengers May Face

From the intrusion measurements of the passenger compartment and door, IIHS estimated that most victims would suffer injuries to the lower extremities. In evaluating the damage to the crash test dummy, an injured passenger may sustain:

  • Fractured bones in the feet, shins, thighs, with the potential for life-threatening compound fractures;
  • Amputation of the lower extremities;
  • Hip injuries, including broken bones and damage to the joints;
  • Harm to the upper right arm, hands, elbow joints, and shoulders;
  • Injuries to the spine, spinal cord, and neck;
  • Trauma to the head, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussion, and other head injuries;
  • Whiplash and soft tissue injuries; and,
  • Many other types of injuries.

While the immediate pain of these injuries is obvious, many victims do not realize that the totality of the damage can be much more extensive. Ultimately, you may experience significant losses, such as:

  • High medical costs, including expenses related to emergency care, treatment, physical therapy, pain medications, and similar costs;
  • Lost wages, if your injuries prevent you from working;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Diminished quality of life and enjoyment;
  • Temporary or permanent disability; and,
  • Many other types of damage.

Contact a Skilled Car Accident Lawyer to Schedule a Free Consultation

The recent IIHS report shows that there are serious concerns about the safety of occupants in smaller SUVs, especially for passengers. Still, SUV design and safety features do not cause motor vehicle accidents – the negligence of other drivers does. When a motorist fails to comply with the duty to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel, any occupant of any vehicle is at risk of severe injury.

Fortunately, Maryland law does allow victims and their families to recover compensation in the event of an auto accident. Because these claims can be complicated, it is important to retain the services of an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney.


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