Crash Test Dummies: Ford Tops IIHS Tests, Everyone's Headlights Suck

There are wars being waged on all fronts in the half-ton pickup truck market, from towing prowess to outright power ratings. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to bash their competitors over the head with a truck-shaped chair, manufacturers seem to take every opportunity to harangue their opponents – especially when empirical data puts them in the driver’s seat.

The latest to do so? Ford, leveraging the recent IIHS crash test results of its 2019 F-150 Crew Cab pickup to take a shot or three at The General.

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Tap the Brake: IIHS Adds Wayward Pedestrians to Its Testing Regimen

Not satisfied with turning up the heat on automakers via new crash tests and headlight performance evaluations, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety now has pedestrian avoidance systems under its microscope.

In its first round of tests, IIHS looked at the systems offered in 11 popular subcompact through midsize crossovers — vehicles that aren’t hard to imagine roaming leafy streets where wayward soccer balls (and those who chase them) lurk behind every parked car. The good news for both drivers and manufacturers? Nine of the 11 scored good marks.

Too bad about Mitsubishi and BMW…

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The 57 Models That Received IIHS Safety Awards for 2019 (Spoiler: There Aren't Many Americans)

Despite perpetually raising the bar on what constitutes automotive safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just gilded nearly five dozen models with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards. The metrics, which now hinge largely on a vehicle possessing crash avoidance systems and superior headlamps, require the highest rating available in passenger-side protection during its small overlap front crash to get the coveted Plus decoration — which 30 vehicles qualified for in the initial 2019 model year evaluation.

Hyundai, which managed to walk away with the most awards, swiftly issued a press release to humblebrag that it bested the competition two years running. Considering how well the Koreans performed, it was likely warranted. Automakers absolutely love this kind of stuff, so you can expect to see future references made to the awards in the next batch of car commercials.

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Headlights Still Largely Suck, Just Not As Much As Last Year

A collective groan must have echoed through the automotive industry a couple of years back, after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began testing headlight performance. Early results showed that most headlights, even those on expensive vehicles, fell well short of optimal performance. Most fell short of acceptable performance.

Since then, improvements have begun — slowly, but surely. It’s in an automaker’s best interest to slap a couple of bright peepers on the front of their vehicles from a PR and marketing perspective, but there’s cost issues to be considered. Still, no vehicle can take home that coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating without good headlights.

In its 2018 testing, some 32 models offered standard or available headlights worthy of a “good” rating. That’s out of 165 models.

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Insurers Rejoice! Headlamp Replacement Costs Are Still Really High, Says IIHS

Unless you’re still tooling around in a hand-me-down rig donated by your grandfather, chances are good you’re not in possession of a car outfitted with sealed-beam headlamps. That car might also have real 5 mpg bumpers, further insulating you from lofty repair costs.

For owners of newer cars, plenty of pain awaits after a fender-bender, though advances in passive restraints have relegated most of that pain to your wallet. After smashing through potentially thousands of dollars of camera and sensor gear housed in your bumper and grille, the next thing damaged in a low-speed, front-end impact is your headlamps. New figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal what you’re likely to pay for a replacement. (Hint: it’s a lot.)

However, if you’re one of the few people who shelled out for a new Lincoln Continental this year, there’s good news here.

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2019 Ram 1500 Aces Crash Tests, Stymied by Headlights

You win some, you lose some. For Fiat Chrysler, the new Ram 1500 represents more of a win, both in terms of quality, drive experience, and especially crash ratings, which just rolled in from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The previous-generation 1500 lost marks in two areas: driver-side small-overlap front impacts (a weakness it shares with FCA’s rear-drive passenger cars) and roof strength. Both of these tests earned the 2018 1500 a “marginal” rating from the IIHS, sinking its overall score. FCA engineers clearly did their homework — the new truck aced all crash tests. Too bad about those peepers, though.

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IIHS Recommends Putting Your Teen Behind the Wheel of the Largest Vehicle Possible

Assuming you’re the sort of parent who’s willing and able to buy your child their first vehicle, you’ve probably made safety your top priority. While you could purchase a new vehicle with all the latest self-preservation tech, teens have a habit of scratching up cars. If you buy them an old clunker, they’ll learn a valuable lesson about the importance of auto maintenance but won’t be as protected when they crash into something — which they’re statistically more likely to do.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently updated its list of recommended vehicles for teens, promoting the “bigger is better” mentality. It claims an older, larger used vehicle is often a safer choice when compared to a newer small vehicle that costs roughly the same. While the institute’s suggestion makes sense, it’s also one step removed from recommending putting teenagers in armored personnel carriers.

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Automakers Ready to Rock When New NHTSA Headlight Rules Arrive

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it was willing to considering changing the rules that govern automobile headlights. Now in a comment period before its official review, the proposal would permit automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the United States. While some automakers are preparing themselves for the change, most have been ready for ages.

One one hand, this proposed change should help lousy drivers from burning out your retinas on a lonesome country road. But, by the same token, you may no longer have the delicious opportunity to blast them with the brights once they’re within a few feet of your car to let them know to lower those damned high beams.

Just kidding, that would be illegal. Federal mandates require all drivers to dim their headlights when approaching within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or when approaching a vehicle less than 300 feet ahead. Of course, nobody we know has ever witnessed this law being actively enforced — even though it’s probably as dangerous as moderate speeding infractions. Regardless, it’ll gradually become a non-issue if the rules change.

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Higher Risk: Study Claims States That Legalized Marijuana Have More Traffic Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute announced Thursday that auto crashes in states with legalized recreational marijuana have increased 6 percent. Both groups will be on hand at the Combating Alcohol-and Drug-Impaired Driving summit at IIHS’ Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia to present two studies on the issue. Perfect timing, considering Canada just became the second country to legalize the substance and support for decriminalization continues to grow in the United States.

Of course, things are rarely so simple. While the IIHS and HLDI remain confident in their research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claimed marijuana use was unlikely to contribute to traffic mishaps in any meaningful way back in 2015. And that’s just for starters. There is so much conflicting information on this issue, it’ll make your head spin harder than the most savage bong rip of your life, bro.

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Honda Odyssey Reigns Supreme in Latest Minivan Crash Test

You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.

Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results.

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Two Aging Midsize SUVs Fail Latest Round of Crash Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety never rests, always thinking up new ways to expose flaws in contemporary passenger vehicles. Lately, the IIHS has begun applying the dreaded small overlap front crash test to the passenger side of new models. There’s a seat on that side for a reason, and it’s not inconceivable that a roadside utility pole or obstruction could take out that corner of the vehicle.

The latest IIHS test put popular midsize crossovers through their paces, exposing serious safety concerns in two models.

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NHTSA Study Confirms New Cars Are Safer, Regulations Not a Scam

You might want to sit down for this one. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study this week showing older cars without modern day safety hardware are — and I’m sorry to say this — far more dangerous than newer vehicles. Unbelievable, right?

Of course not. As tacked on and obnoxious as a lot of safety regulations often seem, they are delivering onto us safer automobiles. The old maxim of “they don’t build cars like they used to” is absolutely true, but not in the way your grandfather meant it. According to data compiled from the U.S. government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) between 2012 and 2016, fatal incidents occurred in older model-year vehicles at a much higher rate than their newer counterparts. Not surprisingly, the NHSTA also suggested the severity of an occupant’s injuries increase the older a vehicle gets.

Still, the disparity between the vehicle age groups is surprisingly vast.

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Deadly Design: SUV Proliferation a Contributing Factor in Pedestrian Deaths, Study Says

Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers are great for families who want maximized interior volume and a sense of security, but the high-riding vehicles are a double-edged sword. In addition to being less economical than a sedan with a similar footprint, the design doesn’t bode well for pedestrians. In fact, the proliferation of SUVs may be the largest contributing factor to pedestrian fatalities right now. From 2009 to 2016, fatal single-vehicle crashes involving utility vehicles increased by 81 percent.

That’s disconcerting, considering the number of pedestrian killed on U.S. roads declined by 20 percent since 1975, hitting an all-time low in 2009. However, in 2016 the death toll had climbed back up to the highest levels since 1990. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated nearly 6,000 people were fatally struck by vehicles last year, with around 4,700 of those deaths occurring in urban or suburban areas. Conversely, those same environments only saw 2,959 deaths in 2009.

The increase in fatalities cannot be contributed entirely to the design of SUVs. Distracted driving, encouraged by smart phones and increasingly complicated infotainment systems, has undoubtedly pressed the issue. But, when a strike does occur, the shape of a vehicle still plays an enormous factor.

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Driving Aids Allow Motorists to Tune Out, NTSB Wants Automakers to Fix It

Driving aids are touted as next-level safety tech, but they’re also a bit of a double-edged sword. While accident avoidance technology can apply the brakes before you’ve even thought of it, mitigate your following distance, and keep your car in the appropriate lane, it also lulls you into a false sense of security.

Numerous members of the our staff have experienced this first hand, including yours truly. The incident usually plays out a few minutes after testing adaptive cruise control or lane assist. Things are progressing smoothly, then someone moves into your lane and the car goes into crisis mode — causing you to ruin your undergarments. You don’t even have to be caught off guard for it to be a jarring experience, and it’s not difficult to imagine an inexperienced, inattentive, or easily panicked driver making the situation much worse.

Lane keeping also has its foibles. Confusing road markings or snowy road conditions can really throw it for a loop. But the problem is its entire existence serves to allow motorists to take a more passive role while driving. So what happens when it fails to function properly? In ideal circumstances, you endure a moderate scare before taking more direct command of your vehicle. But, in a worst case scenario, you just went off road or collided with an object at highway speeds.

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Latest IIHS Crash Tests: Throwing Small Crossovers at the Wall, Seeing What Sticks

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released new ratings for seven small utility vehicles. For the most part, the pint-sized crossovers performed amicably. However, none of the models were worthy of the group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award due to subpar headlamp performance, while a couple of models were found structurally deficient after being confronted with the dreaded small overlap crash test.

Ford’s Escape received an overall poor rating and came away from the test with the worst structural deformation within the group. Senior IIHS research engineer Becky Muller noted that Ford reinforced the diver’s side of the vehicle for the 2017 model year but negated extending that courtesy to passengers.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” she explained. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.”

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  • MaintenanceCosts So someone really did build that car I drew while not paying attention in second grade. Too bad they screwed it up so badly.
  • MaintenanceCosts A bit after that experience, my family ended up owning an '88 Accord and an '87 Taurus--Detroit's big triumph--at the same time. The win for the Accord wasn't total; the Taurus's engine was better and it was quieter. But the difference in build quality and refinement can't be overstated.There were no rattles in the Accord, the materials are to this day some of the best in any car I've ever owned, every control operated with precision and just the right feel, and the ergonomics were perfect. By contrast, the Taurus was full of rattles from the day we got it, had hard plastic and slapdash fits all over the interior, had mouse-fur upholstery that showed wear by 60k miles, some parts of the control layout were nonsensical, and my car had a number of obvious assembly defects (including silver front bumper paint that all peeled off within five years). The cars' records in service also contrasted dramatically; the Taurus's lower purchase price (as a used car with similar mileage) was totally offset within a few years by higher repair costs.The thing that really puts an exclamation point on the contrast between the two cars is just how much better the Taurus was than its Fox-based predecessors.
  • Art Vandelay I am sure somewhere, somebody is saddened by this.
  • Dukeisduke It's becoming the norm for cats to be moved out of state for sale, and even out of the country. The thieves are looking for the easiest places to get rid of them, as laws tighten down in some places. Here in Texas, catalytic converter theft became a felony last September 1, so the stakes are going up.A couple months back, an off-duty Harris County (Houston) sheriff's deputy leaving a grocery store was murdered in the parking lot by a thief that was in the process of stealing the cat from his truck. As far as I know, they're still looking for the suspect, who would be charged with capital murder, and subject to the death penalty.
  • Dukeisduke Here's a real horror story: A friend of mine that's a commercial wallpaper installer owned an '09 Tundra, and had his cat stolen while he was working on a job in Dallas. He would normally have driven his work truck (an '03 Silverado with a zillion miles on it, and one engine replacement), but it was out of commission that day.At the end of the day when he got in the truck and started it, he noticed the noise, *and* saw smoke and flames. The thief had somehow cut or nicked the fuel line, causing gas to spray out. The truck burned to the ground in just a few minutes.He replaced it with a '19 Tundra, and the dealer installed a steel plate attached to the frame rails below the cats, and it's riveted (or maybe security bolts?) to the rails (I only saw it after dark, so I didn't get a really good look). He said the plate cost $750 to install. He says he'll never take the new one to work.