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SUV crash test results — substantial safety issue in Texas?

Last week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released the results of tests to evaluate how well midsize SUVs (sports utility vehicles) protect their contents from front and side impacts. Here in Dallas, it seems that almost everyone drives an SUV of some size — so, this testing was quite welcome.

Frontal safety was determined from examining injury (as modeled by a Hybrid III test dummy) and the amount of intrusion into the vehicle’s occupant compartment during a 40 mph offset front crash. In the case of side safety, a side impact was simulated by a mobile barrier impacting the vehicles with an object at 31 mph.

The models evaluated were the: Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner, and Ford Explorer. All these models received a rating of “good” for frontal crash protection with the exception of the TrailBlazer which was rated “acceptable”.

There is a frequent misconception that mid sized SUV’s are safer than other vehicles in regards to side impacts, but, in reality, many cars fare better. The Nissan vehicles rated only “marginal” unless they were equipped with the optional side airbags (in which case they rated “good”). The 4Runner rated good, the Explorer acceptable, and the Grand Cherokee and TrailBlazer rated only marginal (all of these vehicles have side airbags).

Just having airbags is not sufficient to protect a car’s occupants though, the airbags must be appropriately designed and positioned. The Grand Cherokee and Trailblazer both have curtain style airbags that protect the passengers’ heads, but they lack additional airbags (found in some other vehicles) that provide protection for the abdomen and chest. This lacking, coupled with weaker vehicle side construction, can potentially result in severe damage to the occupants in the case of a side impact.

The way lemon laws function, impact related safety issues might never qualify your car as a lemon. If your car has serious airbag or construction flaw, the manufacturer may never get multiple attempts to repair it if it is totaled after one crash. So, do your research before you buy, and, if you do have a defective new car, contact us for a free case review.

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