The news is not good for drivers of most mid-sized sedans. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashed a barrier into 13 mid-size cars, simulating what would happen if an SUV slammed into the car's side at 31 miles an hour. Ten of the cars rated "poor".
"Most vehicles today are not offering effective protection against these impacts," said Brian O'Neill of the Insurance Institute.
In fact, the only two cars to receive good ratings were the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and then only when they were tested with optional side air bags.
"In a crash like that, the airbags can make the difference between life and death," O'Neill said.
Nearly 10,000 people die every year in side-impact crashes.
Desiree Hicks said she believes the reason she survived is that her back seat took the brunt of the hit.
"I think if my door caved in like that, I would be telling a very different story," Hicks said.
The auto industry has agreed to voluntarily improve side impact protection. It will be standard in all cars by 2010.