Side-impact crash test tweaked to better replicate how a crash with pickup or SUV happens in the real world.

CarAndDriver, By Clifford Atiyeh

©  CarAndDriver | IIHS Safety Group Toughens Crucial Crash Test, Will Live-Stream One on Nov. 21

The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced it has updated one of its 
six crash tests, the side-impact test.

The current test is not as helpful as it could be in showing consumers distinctions between vehicles on the market, IIHS said.

IIHS will live-stream a crash test on its Facebook page at 11:25 a.m. ET on Thursday, November 21.

Indisputably, new cars have become much safer in America just in the past few years, and it's no credit to the federal government's NHTSA, which has yet to upgrade its warning, nearly-every-car-gets-five-stars evaluations. It's due to voluntary standards set by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and one of the group's six tests has just gotten harder again.

IIHS says it is updating its side-impact crash test because it's now too easy for cars to pass with flying colors. When it first began side-impact testing in 2003, only one in five vehicles earned its top Good rating. By strengthening side structures and fitting side airbags to protect occupants' heads, the automakers improved test scores to the point where today, 99 percent of vehicles IIHS tests get the Good rating in the test.

"The program has been so successful that the current side ratings no longer help consumers distinguish among vehicles or point the way toward further improvements," the group said in a statement.

The current test uses a fixed side barrier on a moving chassis that is hurled toward the subject vehicle at 31 mph. The rig, which weighs 3300 pounds, is meant to simulate a collision with an average small crossover. While the barrier is taller than what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prescribes effectively, making the IIHS test more difficult to pass since it strikes a large portion of the windows the average small crossover is not a runt anymore. The IIHS says the average weight of new SUV and crossovers is 4200 pounds. That's the weight of the new rig, too. And now the rig will hit the vehicle at 37 mph. The idea is to better simulate what a pickup truck or larger SUV will do to another vehicle in a side-impact crash. The dummies which include one to represent a small woman or 12-year-old child in the driver's seat and rear passenger seat will be unchanged.

There's more work to be done. The IIHS said that because the fixed barrier has a "uniform" stiffness throughout its structure, it can't fully demonstrate how a real vehicle's front structure varies in rigidity and, in particular, how much worse than the real vehicle can buckle the doors behind the pillars in a real crash. No timeline has yet been set for automakers to meet the updated test.

This article was originally published in CarAndDriver.
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