WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- Drivers of cars such as the Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Aveo and Dodge Caliber that performed poorly in U.S. side-impact crash tests are more likely to die in accidents than motorists in higher-rated vehicles, an insurance group said.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared its testing data with fatality records compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The insurance group found that drivers of vehicles it rated “good” for protection in driver's-side crashes were 70 percent less likely to die than were drivers of vehicles that it rated “poor,” the group's lowest rating.
“This was our first look at how our ratings correlate with actual crash data since we started side tests in 2003, and the numbers confirm that these are meaningful ratings,” David Zuby, the Insurance Institute's chief research officer, said in a statement.
In the United States in 2009, 27 percent of deaths in passenger vehicles were in side-impact crashes, the nonprofit institute said, citing regulatory data.
For current vehicle designs, the insurance group rated 78 percent of cars and trucks “good,” its top rating, for side- crash ratings. That compares with about a third of vehicles receiving that rating the first two years it did the side test.
Hyundai's Accent, Chrysler's two-door Jeep Wrangler and the Chevrolet Colorado crew cab and GMC Canyon crew cab were the only models to receive “poor” ratings on the insurance group's side-impact test for current models. The Accent and GM trucks came with standard side airbags; the Jeep tested didn't include optional side airbags.
Eleven models received “marginal,” or the second-lowest, ratings for side-impact protection. Those included the Aveo and Caliber.
Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department said it will require all new cars sold in the United States to meet a minimum standard of protecting passengers from side-window ejections, which occur in rollover crashes.
The standard, which will be phased in and apply to all vehicles starting with the 2018 model year, can be met with stronger glass or with side-curtain air bags.