New crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety find that there are wide variations in the way mid-size SUVs protect motorists in serious side crashes. Startling new test results show SUVs may not be a whole lot safer than a mid-sized car if you're hit from the side in an auto accident. Adrian Lund with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said, "With these mid-sized SUVs we would expect them to do a little better in the side impact test than cars because they're higher off the ground." The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crunched the numbers on the Chevy Trailblazer, Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra, the Toyota 4runner, Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. In front crashes the Chevy Trailblazer received an acceptable rating, a step below the other five SUVs which did a good job protecting drivers. But several of SUVs were panned after a test that simulates being struck in the side by a similar sized vehicle traveling 31 mph. Lund said, "You can see there is just too much intrusion, even in this larger vehicle. We need better protection in side impact." Only three SUVs offered good protection - the Toyota 4runner, and the Nissan Pathfinder and Xterra. But both Nissan vehicles performed poorly without their optional side airbags. In some cases even side airbags didn't help. The Explorer rated acceptable, the Grand Cherokee and Trailblazer just marginal, they had airbags to protect the head, but not the torso. All automakers have said they are going to make side airbags standard equipment by 2009. And by 2011 they are going to be required by the federal government as well.
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