For the first time since 2003, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced plans to update its side-impact crash test to account for larger vehicles and higher speeds on today’s roads.
While the federal government tested vehicles for side impacts in 2003, the IIHS said those studies don’t adequately account for the increase in SUVs and pickup trucks being sold on the market. The IIHS has begun researching a comparison of its barrier in impacts with higher mass and higher speeds.
During a presentation at the 2019 Great Designs in Steel Conference earlier this year, IIHS Senior Test Coordinator Sean O’Malley predicted that higher speed tests with a heavier mass could lead to structural and restraint system design changes. A modification of the IIHS moving deformable barrier (MDB) may be necessary to make it more representative of SUV or pickup striking vehicles. Side crashworthiness can be improved with more stringent evaluation criteria, he said.
Although side impact deaths saw a large reduction after the 2003 modification on testing, recent reports show an increase in side-impact fatalities even in vehicles with the top rating bestowed by the IIHS. The IIHS said this can be attributed to the fact that their moving aluminum barrier weights less than SUVs and pickups on today’s roads. The current test uses a barrier that weighs 3306.9 pounds which is a lesser weight than that of the average 2017 SUV (4188.8 pounds) or the average 2017 model year pickup (4629.7 pounds), O’Malley added.
“The current side-impact research tests build on a study of real-world side crashes in which people were seriously injured in vehicles with good side ratings from IIHS,” the IIHS wrote on April 25 in discussing ongoing side-impact crash testing. “In that study, many of the impacts occurred further forward on the vehicle than the spot where the barrier strikes in the current IIHS test. Many also occurred at higher speeds than the 31 mph used in the test. IIHS engineers have also taken a closer look at the moving barrier and found that it may need to be redesigned to more closely approximate the front ends of SUVs and pickups.”