The annual Vehicle Top Safety Picks are out from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — and fewer cars made the cut.
The vehicles that receive the award are those who meet certain criteria in a number of safety ratings. Last year, 101 vehicles earned the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards. This year it’s only 48. That’s, in big part, because the tests got harder.
“If you are a driver in a vehicle that was rated ‘good’ in reasonable side tests, you are 70% less likely to die in that type of collision than if you’re in a vehicle that’s rated poor,” said David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
He added, “What we’ve done this year is we’ve increased the amount of energy in that test to make it even tougher and make the vehicles even safer. So we were running that test at a higher speed and with a heavier vehicle that reflects the increase in pickup trucks and SUVs that we have on our road today.”
The Top Safety Pick+ is the highest honor. For both categories, IIHS evaluates driver and passenger side tests, headlights, and day and night front crash prevention.
The group is cracking down on headlights requirements this year.
“We drive about a quarter of our mileage at night. Yet, that’s when half of our fatalities occur,” Harkey said, “You need good headlights to be able to see further down the road and respond to a hazard, or a pedestrian, or bicyclist that you may encounter. “
This year, to qualify for a Top Safety Pick award, headlights that are rated good or acceptable must be on all trim levels of a particular vehicle model. That will make it much easier when consumers go to shop for vehicles.
There is also stringent testing this year for nighttime pedestrian front crash prevention. One of the reasons for this focus is that pedestrian deaths are on the rise.
“It’s going up much faster than total fatalities in the United States,” said Harkey. “And anything that we can do, from the vehicle safety side of things to help prevent those types of collisions and those types of fatalities, is a good thing.”
The company that earned the most awards was Toyota, which includes the brands of Toyota and Lexus. They earned nine Top Safety Pick+ awards and six Top Safety Pick Awards. Honda was right behind them, which includes both Honda and Acura brands. They had six Top Safety Pick+ and two Top Safety Pick awards. Mazda was the third place winner this year with six Top Safety Pick awards.
You can see a list of the specific models that won awards or see where the vehicle you are interested in ranks on the IIHS website.
So what’s next? He says to this point the automakers have been fantastic at focusing on the safety of the driver and front seat passenger, but next year, the testing standards are going to start putting a lot more focus on the other passengers.
“it’s now time to focus on those seated in the rear of the vehicle. And so our next tests that will be part of our criteria next year to win an award will be how well you do in one of our frontal tests where we have a dummy setting in the rear of the vehicle behind the driver, Harkey said.