AutosIIHS testing reveals SUV safety flaws at high speeds

IIHS testing reveals SUV safety flaws at high speeds

Not every car reacts to a motorcyclist.
Not every car reacts to a motorcyclist.
Images source: © Press materials | IIHS

6:34 PM EDT, May 9, 2024

Modern cars have active systems designed to correct driver errors, leading many to believe they're completely safe. Unfortunately, the reality is not so straightforward. A recent test conducted by the IIHS has shed light on this, altering the test scenario and revealing some uncomfortable truths.

Demanding more from car safety

The American road safety agency IIHS has long pushed the envelope. A few years back, it introduced a new crash test - the small overlap test - that greatly challenged car manufacturers by judging the impact of collisions involving only 25% of a car's front end, as opposed to the traditional 40%. This change upturned expectations, exposing vulnerabilities in many vehicles. Recently, IIHS has shifted the landscape again by expanding its active safety system assessments to include scenarios involving both pedestrians and other vehicles, such as a stationary motorcyclist or a semi-truck trailer.

Moreover, the testing speeds have been adjusted. Previously, IIHS conducted tests at 19 and 40 miles per hour. They’ve included scenarios with vehicles moving at 30, 60, and even 70 miles per hour. The motorcyclist dummy is positioned both in the center of the lane and at its edge, introducing a new level of complexity to the tests - and the results have been notably poor.

Underperformance of SUVs

Scores are awarded based on a vehicle's ability to warn the driver at least 2.1 seconds before a potential collision and reduce speed to avoid or mitigate the crash significantly. Out of 10 SUVs tested, only one scored the maximum of four points. Two models received a satisfactory score, three barely passed, and the remaining four were deemed insufficient, underscoring manufacturers' challenges in meeting these rigorous standards. Here’s a glimpse from best to worst:

4 points

  • Subaru Forester

This Japanese SUV was the standout. It successfully avoided a collision with the motorcyclist at speeds of 31 and 37 miles per hour and slowed significantly in higher-speed tests. Notably, it alerted the driver well in advance of the potential collision.

3 points

  • Honda CR-V
  • Toyota RAV4

The Honda CR-V excelled in providing timely warnings and managed to stop or nearly stop at speeds up to 37 miles per hour. However, it struggled to reduce collision speed to 43 miles per hour. The RAV4, while slightly less effective, demonstrated a similar performance pattern, particularly at higher speeds and when the motorcyclist was positioned at the edge of the lane.

2 points

  • Ford Escape
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Jeep Compass

The Ford Escape only avoided a collision at 31 miles per hour, with the Hyundai showing marginal improvement. The Jeep, although consistent, was only able to reduce the speed of impact in the tests.

1 point

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Volkswagen Taos

The performance of these models was so lacking that the IIHS awarded the lowest score. The automatic braking systems often failed to activate in the test scenarios.

This testing cycle underscores the importance of evolving safety benchmarks to mirror real-world conditions. While manufacturers might build vehicles to pass tests, the push from independent agencies like IIHS ensures that these vehicles also address actual safety concerns. It's likely only a matter of time before we see systems adept at detecting motorcyclists, potentially revealing another area for safety advancements.

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