What You Should Know About Crash Test Ratings, Pt. 2: Side Crash Test Basics

Continuing the Bachus & Schanker series on auto crash tests, today we’ll touch on side-impact tests and what they can tell you. We discussed previously the different rating systems and what they mean.

While some car makers only report on frontal crash test ratings, side test ratings are equally important. They are especially important if you have a family and/or expect to carry passengers in your car. Of course, there is always that chance that you, as the driver, could face a driver’s-side impact. Either way, you should pay attention to side-crash test ratings for any vehicle purchase.

The NHSTA and IIHSA have different way of testing and rating these kinds of crashes. For the NHTSA, the test simulates a vehicle struck on the left side by a 3,015 pound car traveling at 38.5 mph. There are individual scores for results of impact on the driver and left-rear passenger. For post-2011 tests, the tests measure different things. Previous tests only measured force to the chest, while the new tests score force to the head, abdomen, and pelvis.

Like their frontal crash test, the side-impact test for the IIHS is more stringent than NHTSA’s. The striking barrier is heavier, at 3,300 pounds. The barrier also strikes higher on the tested vehicle. This simulates the vehicle being big by an SUV or truck as opposed to a sedan. The scores come from force to areas similar to NHSTA test. However, the IIHS test also includes force to the neck and legs in their rating. The IIHS also uses a different type of dummy from the NHSTA. They use dummies that represent a small female or an adolescent in the driver and left-rear passenger sides respectively.

There are a number of cars that have performed well in recent IIHS side-impacts tests. These include the Honda Civic (2 and 4-door), the Subaru Impreza and XV Crosstrek as well as some Toyota, Volkswagen and Mazda models.

It is important to note that a good side-impact test rating does not necessarily mean a safe car. Some cars can have good side-impact ratings but poor frontal ones. For example, the Nissan Sentra and Kia Soul both have the highest IIHS ratings for side tests. However, they have the lowest ratings for front “small overlap” tests. The Chevy Cruze and Toyota Corolla both have “good” side ratings, but only “moderate” front “small overlap” ratings.

At Bachus & Schanker, we hope you never have to go through the stress of being in an auto accident. However, if you do find yourself in an auto accident, or the family member of someone who has died as the result of an auto accident, reach out to us and let us help you.