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Test Scores and Ratings Reports Are Notorious for Their Subjectivism

Schools face this all the time. While some schools may flaunt their over-the-top academic scores, we often find out later their curriculum is solely test prep. 

Unfortunately, the same situation can happen with car ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) both conduct impact and safety tests. Car makers that receive many high ratings use those reports to advertise their automobiles as safer and better than other manufacturer’s vehicles. The question we have to ask is, are they really safer or are these car manufacturers just using the old teach to the test trick?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently added a new test to their line-up that is serving as the pop quiz that spoiled the straight A average, to expand on the academic testing metaphor. The  "small overlap frontal crash test" simulates accidents that happen when crash forces are not distributed evenly throughout the vehicle but instead focused on one of the four corners. The addition of this type of car accident test has shown many luxury cars that previously held high test scores were no longer on the top of the list.

Eleven 2012 models of the most popular and high ranking luxury cars underwent the new crash tests. Only three passed the test and it was only with scores like “passable” or “good”. The rest were deemed “marginal” or “poor”. 

Car manufacturers that previously held the “top safety pick” awards from these tests are complaining that the addition of the frontal crash test is unfair but is it really an indicator that car makers only care about the safety issues they will be graded on? 

Car manufacturers are against the added test but consumers have rallied around it saying the feel duped into buying luxury cars for their safety records if they aren't all encompassing of all types of wrecks.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety stands by these tests saying, "Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year. Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities."

The front end crash that this test simulates is no little fender bender. It is dangerous and deadly. It accounts for nearly a fourth of all accidents per year and is responsible for nearly 10,000 fatalities each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

In light of how devastating these types of accidents can be, more testing facilities and government agencies have looked into performing similar tests when rating car safety. The president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Adrian Lund, explained it this way; "It's packaging 101. If you ship a fragile item in a strong box, it's more likely to arrive at its destination without breaking. In crashes, people are less vulnerable to injury if the occupant compartment remains intact."