Here's the good news. Safety systems built into new cars have dropped the fatality rate of frontal crashes in cars up to three years old by 55 percent since 2001.
Now you're waiting for the bad news, right? The has been crash testing mid-size luxury cars for what it calls "small overlap" impacts. This means the car goes into a 5-foot high wall at 40 mph with just 25 percent of the car's left front impacting the barrier. Check out the video:
Such in crash into a wall, tree or pole puts the force of the impact into the driver's side wheel, suspension and the firewall. The result can be serious foot and leg injuries.
And the survey says? Of the 11 entry-level luxury cars tested, just three earned good or acceptable ratings. The Acura TL and Volvo S60 received the "good" titles and the Infiniti G was "acceptable." Termed "marginal" were Acura's TSX, BMW's 3 Series, Lincoln's MKZ and Volkswagen's CC. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 came away with "poor" ratings.
The institute – which is wholly supported by insurance companies – points out that the small overlap test is not required by any official standards in the U.S. or Europe. Adrian Lund, president of the institute, adds, "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. This new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection."