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Risks Higher for Front-Seat Passengers in Some S.U.V. Crashes, Tests Show

Front-seat passengers in some small sport utility vehicles may not be as well protected as drivers in certain types of crashes, according to recent tests of seven vehicles by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The tests, known as small overlap frontal tests, were similar to the kind that the institute conducts by directing the front-end impact to the driver’s side of the vehicle. But in these latest tests, whose results were released on Thursday, the impact was on the S.U.V.s’ front passenger side.

The findings matter because more than 1,600 passengers in the right front seats of vehicles of all types died in frontal crashes in 2014, according to the federal government’s fatality data.

Automakers began redesigning their vehicles to get better scores on the new test and provide better protection. The insurance institute said that since the test’s introduction, 13 automakers have made structural changes to 97 vehicles.

Because crash forces in the small frontal overlap test are concentrated on the front wheel, suspension and firewall, the passenger’s survival space can be seriously compromised by intruding structures. The front wheel can be forced back into the footwell, resulting in serious and debilitating leg and foot injuries on the driver’s side as the test dummy’s feet and legs get caught up in the metal pedals.

It is also easy for drivers and passengers to hit their heads and chests against metal structures, like the instrument panel, protruding into the vehicle.

To read the entire New York Times article and see the results of their side-by-side tests, follow this link:

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