Home » IIHS’s Signature ‘Moderate Overlap’ Crash Now Includes A Rear Passenger. Watch As Lots Of Cars Fail

IIHS’s Signature ‘Moderate Overlap’ Crash Now Includes A Rear Passenger. Watch As Lots Of Cars Fail

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IIHS’s “Small Overlap Front Test” is getting all the press these days, but before that 25 percent frontal-area crash test, it was the 40 percent frontal-area “Moderate Overlap Front Fest” that really helped the institute build a name for itself. Now, after nearly 30 years, that crash test is adding a rear passenger. And this is making it very difficult for some vehicles to score the “good” rating they scored on the test before the update. Let’s have a look at which cars do well with the new rear passenger, and which struggle.

IIHS’s moderate overlap crash test, formerly called the “frontal offset test,” has been around since 1995. It’s stricter than the government’s frontal crash test in that, not only is it conducted at a speed 5 mph faster, but instead of the entire width of the front end hitting a rigid barrier, only 40 percent of it makes contact — mimicking amore likely real-world scenario. Back when IIHS’s signature test debuted, “the majority of vehicles were rated poor or marginal,” IIHS writes on its website, which later mentions that “Today, all vehicles earn good ratings in that original evaluation.”

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The test, one the industry worst-case standard crash test, has finally changed after all these years. From IIHS:

In the original version of the test, only one dummy — a Hybrid III dummy representing an average-size man and positioned in the driver seat — was used.

In 2022, we updated the test to address lagging protection for rear occupants. Now, a second, smaller Hybrid III dummy has been added. The second dummy, whose size represents a small woman or an average 12-year-old, is positioned in the second-row seat behind the driver. The updated evaluation incorporates new metrics that focus on the injuries most frequently seen in rear-seat occupants.

If you think this likely isn’t a big deal, think again. IIHS just sent out a press release describing the performance of 13 mid-size SUVs in the new test. It didn’t go well. “All these vehicles provide excellent protection for the driver…but only a handful extend that level of safety to the back seat,” said IIHS President David Harkey in the press release. That handful of “good”-rated vehicles includes: Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent and Tesla Model Y.

Others, like the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Murano got rocked by the new test:


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This is a huge deal. Look at the vehicle’s scores on the moderate overlap test before the update, and you’ll see they did great, scoring “good” overall ratings. But a poor rear passenger rating brings the overall rating to “poor.”

Here are some videos of the SUVs undergoing the updated crash test. Here’s the marginally-rated VW Atlas:

Here’s the poorly-rated Jeep Wrangler:


Here’s the poorly-rated Honda Pilot:

And here’s the “good”-rated Tesla Model Y, Ford Explorer, and Ford Mustang Mach-E:


IIHS describes in technical terms why certain vehicles did poorly and some did well:

By most metrics, the four good-rated vehicles provide solid protection for rear passengers. The seat belt remained properly positioned on the pelvis, the side curtain airbag performed correctly, and there was no excessive force on the dummy’s chest. Measurements taken from the rear dummy indicated a slight risk of head or neck injuries for the Ascent and Explorer, however. In those two vehicles and in the Model Y, the rear dummy’s head approached the front seatback, which increases the risk of head injuries.

Measurements indicated a similar slight risk of head or neck injuries for the rear passenger in the marginal-rated Atlas and Highlander and more significant risk of such injuries in the Traverse. The seat belt tension was high in the Atlas and Traverse, increasing the risk of chest injuries. In the Atlas, the rear dummy’s head came close to contacting the front seatback. In the Highlander, the rear dummy’s seat belt moved from the ideal position on the pelvis onto the abdomen, raising the risk of abdominal injuries.

In the poor-rated vehicles, measurements taken from the rear dummy indicated a high risk of head or neck injuries to the rear passenger in the CX-9, Grand Cherokee, Murano, Palisade and Pilot and a significant risk of head or neck injuries in the Wrangler.

The Wrangler lacks a side curtain airbag in the rear. The lap belt also moved from the ideal position on the pelvis onto the abdomen during the test. The rear seat belt tension was high in the CX-9, Grand Cherokee, Palisade and Pilot. That contributed to high chest injury values for the rear dummy in the Grand Cherokee. The head of the rear passenger dummy came close to hitting the front seatback in the Murano. In the Grand Cherokee, the rear dummy’s head ended up between the window and the airbag as it rebounded from the initial impact, increasing the risk of injury from the hard surfaces of the vehicle interior or objects outside the vehicle.

It’s worth mentioning that IIHS did conduct side crash tests that evaluated rear passengers. In fact, in 2021, that side crash test became harder, just like this frontal one just did in 2022. From IIHS:

In 2021, IIHS revamped its test with a more severe crash and a more realistic striking barrier. The new barrier is closer to the weight of today’s SUVs, and the damage pattern it creates mimics the damage a striking SUV would cause more accurately than the old barrier. It is closer to the ground and shorter than the original IIHS barrier but still higher than the NHTSA barrier.

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This change also dropped a number of scores from the best rating of “good” to “poor.” Check out the Camry, Altima, and Malibu:

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If you’re curious, here are the crash test videos for those three cars:


Just look at the stains on these otherwise-flawless report cards.

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Automotive crash tests will become ever more stringent as time goes on, and while I think we should be smart about trying to achieve “Vision Zero” as some authorities call the goal of zero highway traffic fatalities, I will say that frontal crash tests considering rear passenger safety just seem like no-brainers. It’s about damn time.

Images: IIHS

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11 months ago

You have no idea how much it grinds my gears to have leased a “top safety pick” only for it get slammed with the red P halfway into the lease. Unreal.

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