New IIHS Car Safety Standards
Many consumers have depended on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to provide safety testing and ratings for autos. Because these tests are done independently from car makers, the rating is considered to be very reliable. Every year the IIHS releases their Top Safety Picks for cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks.
This year the IIHS has made it even more difficult to earn the distinction of “Top Safety Pick” with the addition of a new test. Automobiles earn a score of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor in each test. Previously automobiles had to earn a Good score in four tests to be considered a Top Safety Pick: moderate overlap front, head restraint, side, and roof strength. This year the IIHS is also requiring that autos pass with a Good score in a small overlap front test in order to be considered a Top Safety Pick.
New Collision Safety Testing
The small overlap front test determines how the car will perform if the front corner of the car hits another vehicle or object. In this test the car is subjected to a collision on the driver’s side front corner by hitting a 5 foot tall barrier while traveling 40 mph with a crash test dummy strapped in the driver’s seat. The test determines whether the car’s safety cage can withstand the crash and whether airbags deploy in a way that actually protects the driver.
There are three main reasons the IIHS has decided the small overlap front test is important to determine a car’s safety standards.
1. Many auto manufacturers were focusing on passing the government’s full-width front crash test and moderate overlap test. In a small overlap front collision, however, the automobile and passengers are rotated sideways which can cause the passenger to hit the dashboard or side of the car instead of the air bags.
2. Auto makers build structures into the car that help to absorb the energy from collisions, but these also used to focus on head-on and moderate overlap collisions, which could make the structural integrity of the car vulnerable in a small overlap collision.
3. The IIHS did a study found that 25% of frontal crashes that resulted in fatal or serious injury were small overlap collisions.
Top Safety Pick Plus
Also new for this year is the distinction of Top Safety Pick+. This is awarded to autos that go above and beyond the minimum safety criteria. Automobiles that earned a Good score in all five tests and are equipped with systems that prevent or lessen the severity of a collision are awarded this title. This includes systems such as automatic braking and warning systems that prevent a driver from colliding with a slower moving car or object in front of them.
Keep in mind if you are purchasing a car based on its Top Safety Pick+ rating, it is likely that the base model of the car does not have the “plus” distinction. Although crash prevention systems are becoming more prevalent in all types of autos, these are typically optional upgrades. The only automobiles to earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating based on standard equipment were the Volvo XC60, S60, and S80 and the Honda Civic hybrid. Autos that meet the Top Safety Pick+ standards with optional equipment would be considered a Top Safety Pick without the crash warning systems, since they will have still earned a Good in all five tests.
Visit our sister site Safe Motorist for the complete list of IIHS 2014 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ winners.
Categorized in: Driving