Ford Escape improves in small overlap test

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Ford Escape has improved from a poor to acceptable rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's challenging small overlap front test, thanks to structural changes to the 2017 model.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Ford Escape has improved from a poor to acceptable rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's challenging small overlap front test, thanks to structural changes to the 2017 model.

When the 2013 Escape was tested for small overlap protection, the structure didn't hold up well. Intrusion into the driver’s space reached 10 inches at the upper door hinge pillar. The dummy's head barely contacted the frontal airbag before sliding off to the left, as the steering column moved right. The side curtain airbag lacked sufficient forward coverage to protect the head. Measures taken from the dummy showed injuries to the left hip would be likely and lower leg injuries would be possible.

Although the small SUV hasn't been redesigned since that first test, Ford reinforced the driver door hinge pillar for 2017 and modified the front-end structure to improve small overlap protection.

In the small overlap test of the new model, maximum intrusion was reduced to 5 inches at the upper door hinge pillar. The side curtain airbag had sufficient forward coverage to protect the head. The dummy's head hit the frontal airbag, though it began to slide off because the safety belt allowed the dummy to move too far forward. Measures taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries.

Introduced in 2012, the small overlap front test replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

Read more: Ford Escape improves in small overlap test

Red light camera shut-offs cost lives

Ruckersville, Va. — Red light camera programs in 79 large U.S. cities saved nearly 1,300 lives through 2014, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have found. Shutting down such programs costs lives, with the rate of fatal red-light-running crashes shooting up 30 percent in cities that have turned off cameras.

"We know we have a problem: people dying at signalized intersections because of people running red lights," IIHS President Adrian Lund said Thursday as he presented the new research at a red-light-camera forum hosted by the Institute. "We know red light cameras are part of the solution."

Adrian Lund

Adrian Lund,
IIHS president

Melissa Wandall

Melissa Wandall,
president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads


Red-light-running crashes caused 709 deaths in 2014 and an estimated 126,000 injuries. Red light runners account for a minority of the people killed in such crashes. Most of those killed are occupants of other vehicles, passengers in the red-light-running vehicles, pedestrians or bicyclists.

Automated enforcement deters red light running. While traditional police enforcement can help, there aren't enough resources to station officers at every intersection. Cameras increase the odds that violators will get caught, and well-publicized camera programs discourage would-be violators from taking those odds.

Although surveys have found strong support for red light cameras in communities that have them, opposition from a vocal minority has led some jurisdictions to shut off their cameras. While programs are still being launched in some places, the total number of communities with red light cameras fell to 467 in 2015 from a peak of 533 in 2012.

Supporting effective enforcement

Thursday's forum, held at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center, was organized to support red light camera programs by focusing on best practices. Representatives of law enforcement and municipal and state governments, as well as highway safety advocates and researchers, spoke.

Many speakers emphasized the importance of organizing camera programs so that the public understands their value as a safety tool, not as a revenue generator.

One way to do that is to keep camera revenues separate from the general fund and dedicate them to traffic safety. Several speakers also cited the importance of consistent data collection and transparency.

As part of the day's events, IIHS conducted a demonstration crash that recreated a real-life red-light-running crash in which a driver was severely injured. In the 2012 crash, the driver of a 2010 Ford F-150 ran a red light in Yuma, Ariz., and collided with a 2007 Chrysler Sebring as it was turning left. The pickup was moving at 48 mph as it struck the sedan. The injuries to the Sebring's driver included a concussion and pelvis and rib fractures.

Building on years of research

The forum builds on years of research demonstrating the effectiveness of red light cameras. Earlier studies showed that red light camera enforcement leads to declines in red-light-running violations and crashes at camera-equipped intersections, as well as nearby spillover locations.

A 2011 IIHS study found that in large cities with red light camera programs during 2004-08, there were substantial decreases in the per capita rates of both fatal red-light-running crashes and fatal crashes of all types at intersections with traffic signals.

The new study updates that analysis, using a more rigorous design, a larger number of cities and a longer study period. It also looks at the effect of ending camera programs, something not previously studied.

[embedded content]

A 2010 Ford F-150 strikes a 2007 Chrysler Sebring in a demonstration crash that recreated a real-life red-light-running collision. In the real crash, which occurred in Yuma, Ariz., in 2012, the Sebring's driver was severely injured.


In cities that turned on red light cameras

Down arrow

21% fewer
fatal red light running crashes
per capita

Down arrow

14% fewer
fatal crashes of all types per capita at signalized intersections

than would have occurred without cameras


In cities that turned off red light cameras

Up arrow

30% more
fatal red light running crashes
per capita

Up arrow

16% more
fatal crashes of all types per capita at signalized intersections

than would have occurred with cameras


In cities that turned on red light cameras:

  • 21% fewer fatal red light running crashes per capita and
  • 14% fewer fatal crashes of all types per capita at signalized intersections

than would have occurred without cameras


In cities that turned off red light cameras:

  • 30% more fatal red light running crashes per capita and
  • 16% more fatal crashes of all types per capita at signalized intersections

than would have occurred with cameras

IIHS researchers looked at the 57 cities of 200,000 or more people that activated cameras between 1992 and 2014 and didn't shut them off. They compared the trends in annual per capita fatal crash rates in those cities with the trends in 33 cities that never had cameras. After accounting for the effects of population density and unemployment rates, the researchers found there were 21 percent fewer fatal red-light-running crashes per capita in cities with cameras than would have occurred without cameras and 14 percent fewer fatal crashes of all types at signalized intersections.

As expected, the cameras have their biggest effect on red-light-running crashes. However, the analysis shows they reduce other types of fatal intersection crashes as well. Drivers may be more cautious in general when they know there are cameras around. In addition, red-light-running fatalities may be undercounted.

When applied to all 57 cities, as well as 22 cities that started and ended camera programs, the lower intersection crash rate translates into 1,296 lives saved during the years the cameras were operational.

The second part of the study looked at 14 cities that ended their camera programs between 2010 and 2014. The researchers compared trends in annual crash rates in those cities with trends in crash rates in 29 cities in the same regions that continued their camera programs. The fatal red-light-running crash rate was 30 percent higher in cities that turned off cameras than it would have been if the cameras remained on. The rate of fatal crashes at signalized intersections was 16 percent higher.

The 16 percent increase translates into an estimated 63 deaths that would have been prevented in the 14 cities if they had not turned off their cameras.

Commenting on the finding during the forum, Melissa Wandall, president of the National Coalition for Safer Roads, said she would point to those 63 lives lost when confronting politicians who want to dismantle camera programs. "How can you turn away from something that's saving lives?" she asked.

Wandall became a red-light-camera advocate after her husband was killed by a red light runner in 2003, two weeks before the birth of their first child.

"My goal has always been to drive down heartache," she said. "It's real every day that I watch my daughter grow. Even 12 years later, I know what she's missing."

Read more: Red light camera shut-offs cost lives

Kia Sorento earns Top Safety Pick+ award

ARLINGTON, Va. —The Kia Sorento, a midsize SUV, joins the ranks of Top Safety Pick+ winners, thanks to a new automatic braking system that earns a superior rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

ARLINGTON, Va. —The Kia Sorento, a midsize SUV, joins the ranks of Top Safety Pick+ winners, thanks to a new automatic braking system that earns a superior rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

When equipped with the optional front crash prevention system, the 2017 Sorento avoided a collision in both the 12 mph and the 25 mph IIHS track tests. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The system is an improvement over the one available on the 2016 model, which was a warning system only and earned a basic rating from IIHS.

Like the earlier model, the 2017 Sorento earns good ratings from IIHS in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

To qualify for the Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Read more: Kia Sorento earns Top Safety Pick+ award

Hyundai Elantra earns Top Safety Pick+

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Hyundai Elantra, a small car, earns the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Hyundai Elantra, a small car, earns the top award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The 2017 Elantra earns across-the-board good ratings for crashworthiness, including in the challenging small overlap test. It also has an available front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating.

The redesigned Elantra's good small overlap rating is an improvement over the previous generation, which rated acceptable. The earlier model's structure did not fare well in the test, with maximum intrusion into the occupant space of 9 inches. In contrast, maximum intrusion in the new Elantra was only 2 inches.

The good rating applies only to 2017 Elantras built after March, when additional modifications were made. Those changes included strengthening the junction between the door sill and the hinge pillar and modifying the frontal airbag.

The Elantra's optional front crash prevention system avoided a collision in the Institute's 12 mph track test. In the 25 mph test, the car's impact speed was cut by an average of 22 mph. The system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating.

Read more: Hyundai Elantra earns Top Safety Pick+

Most small SUV headlights rate poor

ARLINGTON, Va. — Not a single small SUV out of 21 tested earns a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's headlight evaluations, and only four are available with acceptable-rated headlights.

Among the 21 vehicles, there are 47 different headlight combinations available. More than two-thirds of them are rated poor, making this group of vehicles even more deficient when it comes to lighting than the midsize cars that were the first to be rated earlier this year.

Headlight performance in today's vehicles varies widely. Government standards are based on laboratory tests, which don't accurately gauge performance in real-world driving. The issue merits attention because about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or around dawn or dusk.

As with midsize cars, the IIHS evaluations of small SUVs showed that a vehicle's price tag doesn't correspond to the quality of headlights. More modern lighting types, including high-intensity discharge (HID) and LED lamps, and curve-adaptive systems, which swivel in the direction of steering, also are no guarantee of good performance.

"Manufacturers aren't paying enough attention to the actual on-road performance of this basic equipment," says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow. "We're optimistic that improvements will come quickly now that we've given automakers something to strive for."

For 2017, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights in order to qualify for the Institute's highest award, Top Safety Pick+.

While studies have pointed to advantages for advanced lighting systems, the IIHS rating system doesn't favor one type of technology over the other. Instead, it simply measures the amount of usable light provided by low beams and high beams as vehicles travel on straightaways and curves.

IIHS engineers evaluate headlights on the Vehicle Research Center's track after dark. A special device is used to measure how far the light is projected as the vehicle is driven on five approaches: traveling straight, a sharp left curve, a sharp right curve, a gradual left curve and a gradual right curve.

Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured in each scenario. A vehicle with excessive glare on any of the approaches can't earn a rating higher than marginal.

The only type of technology given an explicit nod in the ratings is high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high and low beams based on the presence of other vehicles. Vehicles can earn extra credit for this feature because of its potential to increase low rates of high-beam use.

The best-performing headlights in the small SUV group belong to a new model, the Mazda CX-3, and are available on its Grand Touring trim. They are curve-adaptive LED lights with optional high beam assist. The low beams perform well on both right curves and fairly well on the straightaway and sharp left curve; however, they provide inadequate light on the gradual left curve. The high beams perform well on most approaches.

The other vehicles available with acceptable headlights are the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Tucson. None of the three are curve-adaptive, and only the Escape has high-beam assist. Still, all of them provide fair or good illumination in most scenarios.

The worst headlights among the small SUVs belong to a different Honda — the new-for-2016 HR-V.

The illumination provided by the HR-V's halogen low beams and high beams is inadequate on all four curves and on the straightaway.

The HR-V is one of 12 small SUVs that can't be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.

For those vehicles available with higher-rated headlights, consumers need to make sure they're getting the right ones. For example, the Tucson's acceptable headlight combination is available on the SUV's Limited version, but the headlights on other trim levels of the Tucson earn a poor rating. Even the Limited, when equipped with curve-adaptive headlights, earns a poor rating because of excessive glare.

Seventeen of the rated SUV headlight combinations have unacceptable glare. They include all types of lights — halogen, HID and LED — and none of the headlight types is more likely than the others to have excessive glare. Three of the 17 fell short of an acceptable rating on the basis of glare alone.

"Glare issues are usually a result of poorly aimed headlights," Brumbelow says. "SUV headlights are mounted higher than car headlights, so they generally should be aimed lower. Instead, many of them are aimed higher than the car headlights we've tested so far."

IIHS plans to conduct headlight tests on pickups next.


Headlight ratings for small SUVs

Best available headlight system for each model,
2016 models unless specified


Headlight ratings for small SUVs

Best available headlight system for each model,
2016 models unless specified

Acceptable

Marginal

Poor

Read more: Most small SUV headlights rate poor

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