WASHINGTON (AP) _ Head restraints in dozens of sport utility
vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans provided only poor or marginal
protection from neck injuries in simulated crashes conducted by the
U.S. insurance industry.
The test results released Tuesday found several SUVs had improved
protections against whiplash injuries but gave poor marks to
vehicles made by several leading automakers, including BMW AG,
DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Nissan
Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the simulated
rear crashes at 32 kilometres an hour showed many large vehicles
fall short in protecting against neck injuries, which lead to two
million insurance claims a year costing at least US$8.5 billion.
``In stop-and-go commuter traffic, you're more likely to get in a
rear-end collision than any other crash type,'' said Institute
vice-president David Zuby.
``It's not a major feat of engineering to design seats and head
restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes.''
The institute evaluated 87 current vehicle models based on the
geometric measurements of the head restraints and their performance
in a crash-simulation sled. Fifty-four of the vehicles were rated
marginal or poor, the two lowest rankings, while a dozen received
the second-highest score of acceptable. Twenty-one received the best
rating of good.
Automakers said there were many ways to evaluate rear crash
protection and their vehicles were designed to provide a high degree
``We feel our test procedures are good predictors of how well our
seat/head restraints will protect occupants from neck injuries in
the event of a rear impact,'' said Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong in an
Several SUVs made progress _ 17 of 59 SUVs from the 2007 model
year received top ratings in the testing, compared with six of 44
SUVs tested in 2006.
The best performers among 2007 SUVs included: Acura MDX and RDX;
Lincoln MKX, Ford Edge and Ford Freestyle; Honda CR-V, Element and
Pilot; Hyundai Santa Fe; Jeep Grand Cherokee; Kia Sorento; Land
Rover LR3; Mercedes M Class; Mitsubishi Outlander; Subaru B9 Tribeca
and Forester, and Volvo XC90.
SUVs from the 2007 model year rated poorly were: BMW X3 and X5;
Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Isuzu Ascender;
Cadillac SRX; Chrysler Pacifica; Dodge Nitro; Ford Explorer and
Mercury Mountaineer; Mitsubishi Endeavor; Hummer H3; Hyundai Tucson;
Jeep Liberty; Kia Sportage; Lexus GX470 and RX; Nissan Xterra; Saab
9-7X; Suzuki XL7; Toyota 4Runner and Highlander.
In other vehicle categories, the 2007 Toyota Tundra was the only
pickup to receive the top score. Three minivans received the highest
marks: Ford Freestar, Hyundai Entourage and the Kia Sedona.
For pickups, the institute gave poor ratings to Chevrolet
Silverado 1500 Classic and the GMC Sierra 1500 Classic; Dodge Ram
1500; Ford Ranger and Mazda B Series; Nissan Frontier and certain
versions of Ford F-150, Dodge Dakota and Mitsubishi Raider.
Minivans scoring poorly were the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet
Uplander and Saturn Relay; some versions of the Chrysler Town &
Country and Dodge Caravan; and the Toyota Sienna.
Another group of SUVs, pickups and minivans received either the
second-lowest score of marginal or the second-highest rating of
acceptable. A complete listing was available on the institute's
Several automakers defended their methods of testing for rear
DaimlerChrysler noted many of the vehicles were designed before
the Institute began conducting the tests. General Motors said head
restraints are designed for a variety of driver sizes and the
restraints ``are part of the integrated approach to occupant
protection in all GM vehicles.''
Nissan said in a statement it designs ``all of our products to
provide a high level of occupant safety in a wide range of
real-world crashes, including rear-impact collisions.''
The crash simulation sled replicates the forces in a stationary
vehicle that is struck in the rear by a similar vehicle at 32 km/h.
Vehicles got a higher rating if the head restraint contacted the
dummy's head quickly and the forces on the dummy's neck and the
acceleration of the torso were low.
The tests also consider the height of the restraint and its
horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size
On the Net:
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.iihs.org/