By on August 16, 2019

Audi’s E-Tron has become the first battery electric vehicle to receive the coveted Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award. However, considering the group rarely tests EVs, it may soon find itself with company. The IIHS requires an automobile to earn high marks in six crashworthiness evaluations, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating to be eligible for the commendation.

Chevrolet’s Bolt managed to achieve the necessary ratings in all categories, save for headlight illumination. The same was true for Tesla’s Model S — though that vehicle also received an “acceptable” rating for the small frontal overlap crash test. Other EVs have yet to undertake a full complement of tests, potentially giving the E-Tron a bit of a head start.  (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2019

A survey released by Consumer Reports this week indicated that a majority of motorists (57 percent) believed that the advanced driving aids their vehicles had actively helped them avoid a crash. The survey, which incorporated data on roughly 72,000 vehicles from the 2015-19 model years, asked drivers to weigh in on a multitude of safety systems — including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot alerts, and more. While not all of these features had majority support, tabulating them as a whole showed at least half of the people using advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) saw some value in them.

Our opinions on these systems have been thoroughly mixed. While we’ve found most advanced driving aids to be inconsistent in their operation, sometimes befuddled by fog or a vehicle encrusted with roadway grime, we’ll happily admit that adaptive cruise control offers more utility than the standard on/off inclusions of yesteryear. But we’ve also seen disheartening reports that semi-autonomous features dull a good driver’s senses to a point that effectively makes them a worse motorist and would be lying if we said we trusted any of these systems implicitly.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2019

Many consumers continue to misunderstand the driver-assistance technologies being placed in modern vehicles, according to the latest survey released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But we don’t need the IIHS to tell us that. We’ve been documenting the avoidable accidents created whenever motorists overestimate what their high-tech cars are capable of for years now.

However, the insurance institute and numerous consumer advocacy groups have suggested that big part of the problem stems from the names manufacturers are using to describe their semi-autonomous hardware. Titles like “Autopilot” or “Driving Assistant Plus” can be confusing to somebody who didn’t bother to read the manual, especially when the associated marketing materials are often helping to steer them further in the wrong direction.  (Read More…)

By on April 25, 2019

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, currently on a never-ending quest to improve automotive safety and provide underwriters with data, suggested on Thursday that rear-seat passengers are getting the short end of the stick. The announcement comes shortly after the State of Washington announced a new law that would update its Child Passenger Restraint Law, requiring older children to utilize a booster seat.

Having looked at rear-seat safety for years, the IIHS claims rear-seat occupants are now at a disadvantage compared to occupants in the front row. The group aims to develop a new evaluation method to encourage automakers to improve safety systems for back seat passengers and track their progress.  (Read More…)

By on December 19, 2018

2019SantaFe

Despite perpetually raising the bar on what constitutes automotive safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just gilded nearly five dozen models with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards. The metrics, which now hinge largely on a vehicle possessing crash avoidance systems and superior headlamps, require the highest rating available in passenger-side protection during its small overlap front crash to get the coveted Plus decoration — which 30 vehicles qualified for in the initial 2019 model year evaluation.

Hyundai, which managed to walk away with the most awards, swiftly issued a press release to humblebrag that it bested the competition two years running. Considering how well the Koreans performed, it was likely warranted. Automakers absolutely love this kind of stuff, so you can expect to see future references made to the awards in the next batch of car commercials.  (Read More…)

By on November 5, 2018

Assuming you’re the sort of parent who’s willing and able to buy your child their first vehicle, you’ve probably made safety your top priority. While you could purchase a new vehicle with all the latest self-preservation tech, teens have a habit of scratching up cars. If you buy them an old clunker, they’ll learn a valuable lesson about the importance of auto maintenance but won’t be as protected when they crash into something — which they’re statistically more likely to do.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently updated its list of recommended vehicles for teens, promoting the “bigger is better” mentality. It claims an older, larger used vehicle is often a safer choice when compared to a newer small vehicle that costs roughly the same. While the institute’s suggestion makes sense, it’s also one step removed from recommending putting teenagers in armored personnel carriers.  (Read More…)

By on October 29, 2018

by Steve Johnson car headlights

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier this month that it was willing to considering changing the rules that govern automobile headlights. Now in a comment period before its official review, the proposal would permit automakers to install and enable adaptive driving beam headlights on new cars sold in the United States. While some automakers are preparing themselves for the change, most have been ready for ages.

One one hand, this proposed change should help lousy drivers from burning out your retinas on a lonesome country road. But, by the same token, you may no longer have the delicious opportunity to blast them with the brights once they’re within a few feet of your car to let them know to lower those damned high beams.

Just kidding, that would be illegal. Federal mandates require all drivers to dim their headlights when approaching within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or when approaching a vehicle less than 300 feet ahead. Of course, nobody we know has ever witnessed this law being actively enforced — even though it’s probably as dangerous as moderate speeding infractions. Regardless, it’ll gradually become a non-issue if the rules change.  (Read More…)

By on October 18, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute announced Thursday that auto crashes in states with legalized recreational marijuana have increased 6 percent. Both groups will be on hand at the Combating Alcohol-and Drug-Impaired Driving summit at IIHS’ Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia to present two studies on the issue. Perfect timing, considering Canada just became the second country to legalize the substance and support for decriminalization continues to grow in the United States.

Of course, things are rarely so simple. While the IIHS and HLDI remain confident in their research, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claimed marijuana use was unlikely to contribute to traffic mishaps in any meaningful way back in 2015. And that’s just for starters. There is so much conflicting information on this issue, it’ll make your head spin harder than the most savage bong rip of your life, bro.  (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2018

You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.

Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2018

Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers are great for families who want maximized interior volume and a sense of security, but the high-riding vehicles are a double-edged sword. In addition to being less economical than a sedan with a similar footprint, the design doesn’t bode well for pedestrians. In fact, the proliferation of SUVs may be the largest contributing factor to pedestrian fatalities right now. From 2009 to 2016, fatal single-vehicle crashes involving utility vehicles increased by 81 percent.

That’s disconcerting, considering the number of pedestrian killed on U.S. roads declined by 20 percent since 1975, hitting an all-time low in 2009. However, in 2016 the death toll had climbed back up to the highest levels since 1990. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimated nearly 6,000 people were fatally struck by vehicles last year, with around 4,700 of those deaths occurring in urban or suburban areas. Conversely, those same environments only saw 2,959 deaths in 2009.

The increase in fatalities cannot be contributed entirely to the design of SUVs. Distracted driving, encouraged by smart phones and increasingly complicated infotainment systems, has undoubtedly pressed the issue. But, when a strike does occur, the shape of a vehicle still plays an enormous factor. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2018

Driving aids are touted as next-level safety tech, but they’re also a bit of a double-edged sword. While accident avoidance technology can apply the brakes before you’ve even thought of it, mitigate your following distance, and keep your car in the appropriate lane, it also lulls you into a false sense of security.

Numerous members of the our staff have experienced this first hand, including yours truly. The incident usually plays out a few minutes after testing adaptive cruise control or lane assist. Things are progressing smoothly, then someone moves into your lane and the car goes into crisis mode — causing you to ruin your undergarments. You don’t even have to be caught off guard for it to be a jarring experience, and it’s not difficult to imagine an inexperienced, inattentive, or easily panicked driver making the situation much worse.

Lane keeping also has its foibles. Confusing road markings or snowy road conditions can really throw it for a loop. But the problem is its entire existence serves to allow motorists to take a more passive role while driving. So what happens when it fails to function properly? In ideal circumstances, you endure a moderate scare before taking more direct command of your vehicle. But, in a worst case scenario, you just went off road or collided with an object at highway speeds.  (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released new ratings for seven small utility vehicles. For the most part, the pint-sized crossovers performed amicably. However, none of the models were worthy of the group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award due to subpar headlamp performance, while a couple of models were found structurally deficient after being confronted with the dreaded small overlap crash test.

Ford’s Escape received an overall poor rating and came away from the test with the worst structural deformation within the group. Senior IIHS research engineer Becky Muller noted that Ford reinforced the diver’s side of the vehicle for the 2017 model year but negated extending that courtesy to passengers.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” she explained. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.” (Read More…)

By on December 31, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas headlamp

Even though headlights have evolved from uniform circles illuminating the roadway in largely the same way to diverse units that look and function very differently, their overall performance has improved immensely. Nobody is going to jump from a 1955 DeSoto to a 2018 Dodge and think “Wow, these headlamps are just terrible.”

However, the International Institute for Highway Safety has been on a two-year mission to make modern headlights look bad and there are two possible explanations as to why. Either the IIHS genuinely believes the current offerings from manufacturers are unsafe, or it’s trying to promote competition within the industry to produce a better bulb. The truth, as usual, is likely somewhere in the middle.  (Read More…)

By on December 8, 2017

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. (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2017

NYC street driving

Insurance may be one of the greatest scams ever pulled on the general public, but it’s a very necessary evil. Right around the time the automobile became popular, people starting crashing them into things. By the 1920s, individual states began requiring drivers to purchase insurance — creating a pooled solution that covered at-fault drivers for damages they might be unable to pay otherwise.

However, not all drivers crash and not all vehicles incur the same costs when they take or deliver a beating. Collision losses might be astronomical for high-end sports cars but comparably moderate for midsize pickup trucks. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute recently compiled the loss averages for hundreds of models, grouping them by segments, to establish how lightly-used autos stack up against each other.  (Read More…)

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