When you buy a brand new car, you expect the vehicle to be safe. But the latest round of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests revealed flaws in the system, especially when it comes to passenger safety. The 2018 Ford Escape did especially badly – receiving the lowest “poor” rating on one of the IIHS’s newest tests.
IIHS Tests Put New Focus on Passenger Safety for 2018 Models
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent non-profit organization that is dedicated to reducing injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes. Every year, it issues auto safety tests for new models of cars, trucks, and SUVs to inform car buyers about their choices and encourage manufacturers to put safety first. The tests rate vehicles based on their structure, restraints, and occupant injuries. Vehicles receive ratings of:
Marginal and poor ratings fail the IIHS safety test, telling potential car buyers to look elsewhere.
For the 2018 model year, the IIHS announced it would be adding a new test: the passenger-side small overlap front test. This test crashes a vehicle into a barrier at 40 miles per hour. The barrier is set up to hit just 25% of the passenger-side front end. It is designed to simulate a clipping accident or what happens when a vehicle strikes a light pole. A similar driver-side test was part of the safety examination last year, but passenger safety is a new priority for the IIHS.
"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are," IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a statement. "Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it, and we're confident that good small overlap protection will become the norm on the passenger side, just as it has on the driver side."
2018 Ford Escape Fails the Test for Passenger Safety
The IIHS put 7 small SUVs through its new passenger safety test:
- BMW X1
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Chevrolet Equinox
- GMC Terrain
- Jeep Compass
- Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
- Ford Escape
Of the seven, 5 of the SUVs fared well under the new test, scoring Good or Acceptable ratings across the board. But the 2018 Ford Escape and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport didn’t measure up. In fact, their passenger-side curtain airbags didn’t even deploy. But the Ford Escape was by far the worst off. After the crash test, IIHS found the upper door hinge had been pushed 10 inches into the passenger compartment. The door sill pushed in 4 inches as well. When the IIHS inspected the passenger dummy it showed a passenger would likely have right hip injuries after a crash like this in real life.
Failing Marks Show Ford Cuts Corners on Passenger Safety
The passenger-side test may be new, but the danger of this kind of crash is well known to auto manufacturers like Ford. The Escape still uses one of the oldest structural makeup on the market, but in 2017 Ford began to reinforce the driver side structure specifically to improve occupant protection in this kind of small overlap front crash. Apparently, the manufacturer didn’t bother to correct the other side of the vehicle.
"It's incredibly alarming and disappointing and disconcerting, and wow," said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "I feel like these are remedial safety advancements. It's all about keeping the occupant safe, especially in the world of distracted driving."
The fact that Ford had taken steps to improve driver-side safety, but not passenger-side safety, raises the question of whether late-model Ford Escapes contain dangerous vehicle defects. If it is later found that passengers were injured or even killed because their curtain airbags didn’t deploy or the structure didn’t provide enough protection, Ford’s steps to correct similar problems will make it easier for personal injury attorneys to show the injuries were because of the design.
The IIHS’s tests are designed to make auto manufacturers take consumer safety seriously. But the 2018 Ford Escape’s failing grade shows that the company, and others like Mitsubishi, will avoid obvious safety improvements if they think they can get away with it.
Dani K. Liblang is a personal injury attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, PC, in Birmingham, Michigan. She helps consumers injured by vehicle defects hold auto manufacturers responsible after a crash. If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident, contact The Liblang Law Firm, PC, for a consultation.