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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the iihs updated criteria absolutely devastated its top safety pick list

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.

[Image: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]

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  • Jonnyanalog Jonnyanalog on Dec 09, 2017

    A coworker engineer and I had a discussion about lighting performance in passenger cars today. Based on our knowledge with previous high performance forward lighting projects we could only deduce that most headlights from the factory are very adequate. The problem lies in the fact that nearly every manufacturer does not properly aim the lights before they leave the QC dept. Headlights, like every other component have a tolerance range for when the lighting elements, whether it be, LED, halogen, or HID during installation into the bezel/rear housing. Once the lights are installed into the vehicle (again with its own manufacturing tolerances) they go on their merry way down the line and to the dealer. What I'm getting at is a car doesn't leave the factory without being aligned (tolerance stack up plays a huge role here too), that would be very unsafe. Headlights should receive the same attention before leaving the factory. They are really a safety feature. If they were I'd wager more cars would perform better and ultimately be safer.

    • Claytori Claytori on Dec 09, 2017

      This. The manufacturer depends on the alignment being done by the dealer at delivery prep. One of a number of things that don't get done for your $.

  • Delta88 Delta88 on Dec 10, 2017 2017 Jetta SEL Premium (rare and special order by dealers) came with adaptive HID high and low beams plus cornering lamps, at under 25MPH. Lighting, adaptive cruise, and the Fender stereo were the reasons I searched for one over lesser trims. Last year it garnered a Top Safety Pick+. Optional lights are not tested for 2018. I wonder if they are discontinued. Too bad, because they are fantastic!

  • Abqhudson Passenger seating in recent accords has been unacceptable with my 5’2” wife forced to look at the dash while sitting in the hole provided.
  • ToolGuy Real Subarus are green and coated with dust from at least three different National Parks (Gateway Arch doesn't count).
  • ToolGuy Good for them.(And their customers. $2500 first-year subscription on top of the system cost? That ain't me)
  • ToolGuy T E L L U R I D E is not on this list(I can keep my poster on the wall)
  • ToolGuy My impression is that Honda has been coasting on its reputation for awhile now.(To Honda's credit, they aren't standing on the Self Destruct button like Toyota seems to be)