To the Point
The 2007 Toyota Camry and 2006 RAV4 have earned the Good rankings for front- and side-impact safety in the latest round of tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Neither, however, earned a Top Safety Pick Award, mainly due to Marginal scores in the rear impact test. They weren’t alone: five of the six models evaluated performed poorly in rear testing. The all-new Dodge Caliber was also tested, and scored a Good rating in the front impact test. It didn’t fare as well during the side impact test, however, getting a Marginal score despite the presence of side curtain airbags. The Institute reported that injuries suffered to the driver’s torso were rated as Poor. They expect the Caliber to improve on this score when optional side airbags are added later this year. Kia’s Optima also scored a Good rating for frontal impact and was the only vehicle to rate a Good rear impact test result. Other vehicles tested included the Hyundai Tucson, which received an Acceptable rating for front and side impact, and a poor rating for rear impact. The Lincoln Zephyr gained an Acceptable score for front and side impact, with a marginal result in the rear impact test. According to the Institute, the Zephyr score was good, but not competitive with other luxury midsize sedans.
Why it Matters
The institute’s focus on rear vehicle safety underlines the progress they’ve made in forcing automakers to improve side and frontal impact scores. Partially as a result of their side testing process, 68 percent of the vehicle population now comes with side airbags as either standard or optional equipment. That will increase, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will likely mandate side airbags on all vehicles by the end of the year. This is good news, especially as automotive suppliers search for ways to make cars lighter – thus more fuel efficient – but more prone to serious damage on impact. It’s simple: as fuel prices go up, vehicles get smaller, lighter and more vulnerable – which makes airbags more important than ever. New car shoppers should make sure that the vehicle they choose offers at least side curtain airbags. The difference between side and side curtain airbags is what they protect: Side curtain airbags protect your head and help in case of a rollover; side airbags protect your torso and deploy from the seat.
Photos courtesy of the IIHS, and Toyota