Small SUVs fail in the latest crash tests

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Someone somewhere once said, “Small is beautiful.” Perhaps in the case of the cellphone which started off its life the size of a brick, this is true. But in other parts of life, there may be problems. As in driving on a public road, for example. Take two people. Let’s put one in a substantial truck and the other in one of these smaller cars so popular among midgets and dwarves in Europe. Because the truck is heavier and has its bumper at a different height, it’s likely to smash the smaller car and seriously damage anyone unlucky enough to be inside. The moral of this story is that, if you’re going to get into a crash with anyone, always pick on someone your own weight and size. That way, you all stand a chance of walking away with slight injuries. The moment there’s a substantial mismatch, the people in the smaller vehicle are in trouble.

But that’s not the only problem with smaller vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released its findings for the makes and model in the small SUV class.

The test features the small overlap test. Instead of assuming two vehicles would crash into each other head-on or a single vehicle would hit a static target matching the width of the vehicle, this test assumes only a small overlap between each vehicle or the vehicle and the static object. The 2014 Subaru Forester is the only one of the thirteen vehicles to pass the test with completely satisfactory outcomes. The only other vehicle doing well was the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

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This is an alarming outcome. The government tests front-end crashes using the full-width approach. This gives a completely misleading impression of safety. The statistics show more than 25% of the more serious or fatal injuries to front-seat passengers come from small overlap crashes. Failing to test on this basis shows the government at fault. When people in a popular small SUV like the Ford Escape crash into a tree or utility pole, they are more likely to be seriously injured. These are avoidable injuries if the government would use its powers to direct manufacturers to improve the safety of the vehicles they sell. The moral of this story seems to be that, given a free choice, you should avoid the Buick Encore, Jeep Patriot, Hyundai Tuscon and Kia Sportage which got poor ratings from the IIHS. Indeed, unless and until manufacturers begin the process of rethinking safety to give drivers and their passengers a reasonable chance of walking away from crashes, follow the recommendations of the IIHS because it has tougher standards. All the models that failed these tests meet the current government performance regulations laid down by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So long as our government is authorizing manufacturers to sell dangerous vehicles, you might vote with your wallet until you can vote out the elected government representatives responsible.

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