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Hybrid SUVs Earn Top Safety Pick In Crash Tests

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:44 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Automobile Safety, Hybrid SUV, Vehicle Design, Crashworthiness, Vehicle Ratings, Electronic Stability Control


IMAGE SOURCE: © Top Safety Pick Award 2008 / Insurance Institute For Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave four small sport-utility vehicles top scores in recently completed crash test evaluations.

Consumers have a few hybrid SUVs that have earned Top Safety Pick to choose from.

The results are a positive improvement from five years ago when most small SUVs were rated either marginal or poor.

Automakers are improving vehicle crashworthiness by installing electronic stability control (ESC), an important safety feature which drastically reduces potential vehicle rollovers.

Crashworthiness refers to how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash.

The Institute’s ratings of acceptable, good, marginal or poor are based on front and side crash tests and the evaluation of head/seat restraints for protection against whiplash injury in rear crashes.

TOP SAFETY PICK 2008 best performers are: the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander; 2008 Nissan Rogue; 2009 Ford Escape (also includes versions of the hybrid) and 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan.

The Ford Escape’s ratings apply also to the hybrid version, sold as the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribune. The vehicles all share the same underpinnings.

The 2008 Jeep Wrangler, which was tested without option side airbags, received the lowest score of poor in the side test. Previous versions of the two-door vehicle ad received the second-lowest score of marginal in side crashes.

The Wrangler’s driver door opened during the crash test, which could lead to a person being ejected from the vehicle.

“Wrangler meets or exceeds all federal safety standards and no single crash test provides a full picture of a vehicle’s creditworthiness,” said a Chrysler LLC spokesman.

The Institute has advocated that automakers make side airbags and electronic stability control standard equipment on new cars and trucks. By 2012, electronic stability control will be required on all new vehicles, while automakers have said they will make side airbags standard by the 2010 model year.

Electronic stability control engages automatically when vehicle instability is detected and it helps to bring the vehicle back into the original line of travel, whereas a vehicle without ESC would likely skid out of control and leave the highway. Nearly all rollover crashes happen after a vehicle leaves the road.

A study by NHTSA, in 2004, estimated that ESC systems reduced fatalities in single-car crashes by 30 percent for passenger cars and 63 percent for SUVs. #

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