The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) adjusted their tools/criteria for evaluating side impact crashes. In the past, they’ve used a 3,000lb moveable barrier at 31mph. But now, they’ve switch to a 4,200 moveable barrier at 37mph, for 82% more ‘energy’ than the original test. The decision was made for obvious reasons: Vehicles are getting bigger, taller, and heavier. Vehicles also getting disappointingly generic, expensive, & ugly… but IIHS doesn’t test for that yet. Anyhow – IIHS ratings need to be a real-world representation, hence the upgraded dimensions & weight.
As you can probably assume, midsize & smaller cars did not fair too well in side impacts with larger vehicles.
Turns out – when you have a massive truck/SUV/EV with 6,000lbs of weight behind it plow into your door because the owner was fiddling with a screen… drivers of small/low cars tend to come out on the losing end. Hmmm – as I sit here & count my lives on my fingers… 6 of my 7 cars are definitely deeeeep into the low-car danger zone. And the only one that sits way up in the air (my Jeep)… doesn’t have any doors. I can’t help but wonder how far that 4,200lb rig would punt my ’88 CRX.
So while it can be validly argued that a lower car should be safer…
In that it generally has better handling characteristics with lower rollover risk. We have to also consider the the lowest common denominator here… which are all the other distracted drivers on the road in land-yachts trying to kill us. Perhaps Chris Perkins from Road & Track said it best:
“Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that you’re safer in a car that’s higher off the ground, even if in reality, you’re in a vehicle that likely has a high center of gravity, and thus a greater rollover risk. However, as more consumers embrace high-riding vehicles, you might actually be less safe in your conventional car. … Given this, it’s hard not to think that you’re better off in an SUV or truck. That their increased presence has made it LESS SAFE to drive anything else. The perceived safety they offer has actually turned into a reality.”