According to recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) test results, most small cars don’t protect rear-seat passengers in accidents very well.
The IIHS recently put five small cars through crash tests: the 2022-23 Honda Civic sedan, the 2023 Toyota Corolla sedan, the 2022-23 Kia Forte, the 2022-23 Nissan Sentra and the 2022-23 Subaru Crosstrek.
In every car the nonprofit group tested, the rear dummy ended up “submarining” under its seat belt, leading to the lap belt riding up onto the dummy’s abdomen, increasing the risk that internal injuries will occur.
The nonprofit group assigns one of four ratings for various categories: good, acceptable, marginal and poor. None of the five cars tested by IIHS earned a good overall rating. The Corolla and Civic earned acceptable overall ratings. The Crosstrek, Sentra and Forte earned poor overall ratings.
Because of the dummies “submarining” under the rear seat belts, all five cars earned a poor rating in the rear passenger restraints and kinematics category.
Sitting In Rear Seat Of Newer Vehicles More Dangerous Than Sitting In Front
According to the nonprofit group, research shows that those sitting in the back of newer vehicles see a higher risk of fatal injuries than those sitting in front. The IIHS says this isn’t because sitting in the back is no longer as safe. Instead, according to the nonprofit group, sitting in the front is now safer due to improved seat belts and airbags which are usually not available in the rear.
One seat belt technology the group makes note of which isn’t found in many rear seat belts is technology which tightens seat belts at the beginning of collisions so that occupants’ bodies start to slow along with the vehicle. As this occurs, force limiters let some webbing spool out to lessen the risk of a chest injury occurring. The group says that this technology along with rear seat airbags and inflating rear seat belts might help protect rear seat passengers more effectively.
The group claims that belted occupants sitting in the back now see a 46 percent higher risk of fatal injury than belted occupants in the front.
The group notes that the rear is still the safest location for young kids, who can be hurt by inflating front airbags.
New Findings Result Of An Updated Test
The findings regarding the rear seat safety were the result of a test that IIHS updated last year called a moderate overlap front test. The update to the test involved putting a dummy in the rear seat, behind the driver. The dummy in the driver’s seat is approximately the size of the average adult male. The dummy in the rear is approximately the size of a 12-year-old or a small female. The group also came up with new metrics focusing on injuries which are the most commonly seen regarding passengers in the back seat.
For vehicles to earn good ratings in the test, the rear dummy can’t experience an excessive risk of experiencing an injury to the thigh, abdomen, chest, neck or head. The dummy needs to remain in the right position during the impact and can’t slide forward underneath the lap belt. The head needs to keep a safe distance from the back of the front seat as well as the rest of the interior of the vehicle. The rear dummy’s torso has a pressure sensor which checks if the shoulder belt is located too high, as this can make the seat belt less effective.
Just like in the original moderate overlap front test, the occupant compartment’s structure needs to maintain enough space for the driver to survive. Driver dummy measurements shouldn’t be indicative of an excessive injury risk.
The test involved a vehicle traveling at 40 mph in the direction of a barrier which has a deformable face which is composed of aluminum honeycomb. 40 percent of the vehicle’s total width collides with the barrier on the side of the driver.
Other Test Results
The Civic, Corolla, Forte and Crosstrek received good ratings regarding driver risk of head and neck injury. The Sentra received an acceptable rating in this category.
All five cars received good ratings in the driver chest, knee, thigh, leg and foot injury risk categories, as well as the driver restraints and kinematics category.
The Civic and Corolla received good ratings in the rear passenger head, neck, chest and thigh injury risk categories. The Sentra and Forte received a poor rating in the rear passenger head and neck injury risk category, a marginal rating in the rear passenger chest injury risk category, and a good rating in the rear passenger thigh injury risk category. The Crosstrek received a marginal rating in the rear passenger head and neck injury risk category, a poor rating in the rear passenger chest injury risk category, and a good rating in the rear passenger thigh injury risk category.