INDIANAPOLIS — While drivers and front-seat passengers seem to be very safe, and midsize SUVs are some of the most popular vehicles on the roadways, a new round of testing shows more safety measures are needed for rear-seat passengers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently performed updated testing on popular midsize SUVs to focus on backseat passengers in a front-end crash. The results weren’t great.

According to the IIHS, only four of 13 models received an overall “good” rating in the crash tests:

  • 2022-23 Ford Explorer
  • 2021-23 Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • 2022-23 Subaru Ascent
  • 2022-23 Tesla Model Y

Three other models received a “marginal” safety rating:

  • 2022-23 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2022-23 Toyota Highlander
  • 2022-23 Volkswagen Atlas

The remaining six models scored a “poor” rating:

  • 2022 Honda Pilot
  • 2022-23 Hyundai Palisade
  • 2022-23 Jeep Gand Cherokee
  • 2021-23 Jeep Wrangler 4-door
  • 2021-23 Mazda CX-9
  • 2021-23 Nissan Murano

While front-seat safety is not a problem in front-end crashes in these vehicles, test dummies in the back seat indicated a 50% increase in the risk of fatal injury. That’s not because the back seat area is less safe, according to IIHS President David Harkey. Rather, it’s because the rear restraint systems haven’t advanced as much as systems in the front seat.

Video from the crash test showed many examples of the dummy “submarining,” or sliding up under the seat belt, or the restraining system, failing to keep the dummy from hitting its head.

“For drivers who are often transporting passengers in the back seat, whether it be your children or elderly parents, these ratings provide additional information about which vehicles are safest for all occupants,” Harkey said.

Of course, the purpose of the testing is to help car buyers decide which model to purchase based on the safety of a vehicle. The test results are also designed to prompt auto makers to make safety and design improvements in their vehicles, which Harkey believes will happen. 

If you want to see how your vehicle scores on the IIHS safety rating system, you can search for your make and model on the institute’s website.