9 Out Of 13 Mid-Size SUVs Fall Short on Backseat Passenger Safety

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual ratings on mid-size SUVs this week, and many tested models failed.
  • The IIHS developed a new test to focus on backseat passenger safety with a crash-test dummy specially designed to mimic a 12-year-old child.
  • Crash simulations revealed head or neck injuries to the rear passenger in most vehicles tested.
  • The mid-size SUV test comes after the IIHS tested small SUVs in December, and only two SUVs passed the test.

A majority of mid-size SUVs on the road today do not offer front crash protection for passengers in the backseat, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This is big news for families who rely on these SUVs to travel with their children. 

The IIHS used a new crash-test dummy representing a 12-year-old child in the vehicle's second row behind the driver. (This represents a human out of car seat age.) Nine of the 13 cars tested indicated a risk of head or neck injuries for rear passengers. Only four cars earned a good rating.

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"The majority of the mid-size SUVs that we evaluated have a lot of work to do to improve safety for the rear seat position," Raul Arbelaez, Vice President of the IIHS Vehicle Research Center, told CBS News.

The SUVs earned good marks for driver protection but not for consumers with young children or family members who want to ensure everyone is safe in their vehicle. The group found that most vehicles offer "inadequate front crash protection" for backseat passengers.

Four mid-size SUVs received a "good" rating from the IIHS: the Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent, and Tesla Model Y. 

Three vehicles were rated "marginal," which means rear passengers have a risk of head or neck injuries: Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas. 

Finally, the IIHS ranked nine SUVs "poor" due to the high risk of injury for backseat passengers: the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Murano.

Vehicle safety is top of mind

Vehicles have not become "less safe," according to Arbelaez, but the IIHS created more challenging tests to prioritize consumer safety. 

Recent tests involved simulating a 40 mph front-end crash with two crash-test dummies: a driver in the front seat and a 12-year-old child in the backseat. The IIHS is currently testing all SUV models with these new protocols in mind.

"Thanks to automakers' improvements, drivers in most vehicles are nearly 50 percent less likely to be killed in a frontal crash today than they were 25 years ago," IIHS President David Harley said. "Our updated test is a challenge to manufacturers to bring those same benefits to the back seat."

Unfortunately, this is not the first time SUVs have received failing marks recently. The IIHS tested small SUVs in December and found that two out of 15 protect rear occupants well. All 15 vehicles earn "good" ratings for driver safety, though.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, SafeWise, Business.org, Reviews.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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