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Latest study: Midsize SUVs not so safe for rear-seat passengers

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2023 | SUV Accidents

First, it was the small SUVs. Now, it is the midsize SUVs under scrutiny for failing to provide adequate protection for rear-seat passengers.

These were the findings of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which in mid-March disclosed its results after safety tests on 13 mid-size SUVs. Only four received a good rating, while six received a thumbs-down poor rating. The problem: In many cases, rear-seat passengers were more susceptible to injuries to the head, neck, chest and abdomen.

How safe are SUVs?

In December, the IIHS conducted similar tests on 15 small SUVs, declaring that only two received a good rating, while nine were tagged with a poor rating. These findings should make any driver and their passengers concerned.

Whether due to marketing or merely consumer acceptance, SUVs have long been accepted to be safe vehicles. However, the findings of the IIHS studies beg to differ, especially since an SUV’s rear seats usually contain the most vulnerable passengers – young children and older adults.

Rear-seat passengers at higher risk for fatal injuries

In the IIHS’s most recent test, the four midsize SUVs that provided solid protection for rear-seat passengers were the Ford Explorer, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Subaru Ascent and Tesla Model Y.

The six SUVs to receive a poor rating were the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler 4-door, Mazda CX-9 and Nissan Murano. In many of these cases, rear-seat passengers had a high risk of head, neck, high-chest and abdominal injuries due to the safety belts. In some instances, a passenger may have the potential to strike his or her head on side windows.

The IIHS also noted that rear-seat passengers wearing safety belts have a 46% higher risk of a fatal injury compared with belted occupants in the front seat when traveling in SUVs manufactured in 2007 and the years after. The reason: improved restraint technologies in the front seat, but not the rear seat.

Take heed, automakers

Are automakers listening? If not, they should be. Every person inside a vehicle deserves to be safe and protected from any potential harm. It is alarming that the IIHS studies found that while certain small and midsize SUVs provided more than adequate protection to drivers, the same cannot be said for rear-seat passengers.