The IIHS’ Updated Criteria Absolutely Devastated Its Top Safety Pick List

IIHS crash test, Image: IIHS/YouTube

While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has steadily upgraded its standards over the last two years, the effort hasn’t been without casualties. In a new effort to improve headlight safety and impact protection, the organization has changed its testing criteria for 2018 to include both illumination and passenger-side frontal impacts.

Unfortunately, including these aspects in its final verdict of how safe a vehicle is has removed numerous models from consideration for 2018’s Top Safety Pick+ awards. Last year, 38 vehicles qualified for the safety plus appointment. This year, however, the grand total only came to 15 models — most wearing badges from Hyundai Motor Group and Subaru.

The IIHS makes no apologies for keeping so many cars from receiving top honors. Instead, it claims it was time to heap higher expectations on automakers for items like visibility and passenger safety.

“Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are,” says IIHS President Adrian Lund. “Manufacturers have been taking this issue seriously since we first shed light on it, and we’re confident that good small overlap protection will become the norm on the passenger side, just as it has on the driver side.”

While the crash test is extremely straightforward, the headlight criteria is a little more complex. The IIHS’ initial testing showed most vehicles performing exceptionally poorly. In addition to measuring how well low beams can illuminate the road ahead, the tests take into account the amount of glare the beam creates for oncoming vehicles.

“Headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they are,” Lund says. “We’re pleased to see this changing. Every one of the 62 award winners for 2018 is available with headlights that are at least acceptable.”

However, an acceptable headlight ranking isn’t enough to get the Top Safety Pick+ award. For that, a vehicle must include at least one headlight option offering a good rating, good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, an overall rating of advanced or superior in for overall front crash prevention, and an acceptable rating for the passenger-side small overlap front test.

You probably want to know which vehicles won.

For small cars, winners included the Kia Forte sedan, Kia Soul, Subaru Impreza, and Subaru WRX. Victors in the midsize category were the Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, and Toyota Camry. Moving up to the larger cars showed the BMW 5 Series, Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lincoln Continental, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class as being worthy of Top Safety Pick+ awards.

Meanwhile, SUVs and trucks performed worse than you might have expected. Only the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport received top honors. The rest, even those with decent crash ratings, were handicapped by subpar headlight tests or missing safety technologies.

The good news is that cars are still safer than they’ve ever been, and another 47 vehicles did qualify for lesser safety awards. If you want to see the complete list, check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website for more information.

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[Image: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]

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