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Crash test results may concern many Miami SUV drivers

Midsize SUVs are a popular choice for Miami residents looking for a comfortable way to transport their family around town and on vacations. However, recent crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on nine 2014 models found that they perform very differently in crashes.

The IIHS performs six different crash scenarios. A relatively new one is a front overlap crash. It is considered a more stringent test than the head-on crash test required by the federal government. In the overlap test, a quarter of the driver's side front corner strikes a rigid object or another vehicle at 40 miles per hour.

The troubling news for SUV drivers is that of the nine SUVs tested, only two received IIHS's "Top Safety Pick-Plus" label. These were the GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox. To earn this designation, vehicles must receive the top rating of "good" in four of the tests, and at least an "acceptable" rating in the front overlap test. Further, the vehicle has to be equipped with a prevention system that either provides a warning of an impending front crash or brakes automatically.

The two top-scoring SUVs, both made by General Motors, are nearly the same vehicle. The IIHS noted that GM made modifications to its 2014 models that strengthened the front of the vehicles.

The Toyota Highlander did not earn a "Top Safety Pick-Plus" designation, but received an "acceptable" rating in its crash tests. This is the second-best rating.

Another Toyota SUV, the 4Runner, received only a "marginal" rating. The performance of two other vehicles, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer, was also rated "marginal."

At the bottom of the list are the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento. All received "poor" ratings. According to the IIHS, the Honda Pilot fared worst because of the impact to the driver's area of the vehicle.

While the IIHS cannot regulate vehicle safety or recall defective products, it uses its influence to incentivize car makers to improve the way vehicles perform and protect occupants in auto accidents. The media attention given to their rankings also helps educate consumers.

Problems like those discovered by the IIHS can make the difference between walking away from an auto accident and suffering serious injury or worse. People who are involved in an accident where the vehicle did not perform as it should have may be able to hold the manufacturer liable in civil court.

Source: WBZ-TV, "Only 2 Midsize SUVs Get Top Rating In Crash Tests" Tom Krisher, AP, Apr. 08, 2014

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