Tougher IIHS Crash Tests Leave Only 15 Top Safety+ Picks

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced its 2018 award winners. Just 15 vehicles qualified for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from IIHS, with another 47 earning TOP SAFETY awards, for a total of 62 winners.

Earning the highest "plus" award was tougher this year after requirements were strengthened to put more emphasis on headlight safety and passenger-side protection.

Better Passenger Protection Needed

Surprisingly, this is the first year that a passenger-side crash test has been included to qualify for an IIHS award. The first official passenger-side ratings were released in October, following research tests last year. The Institute said it added the passenger-side "small overlap front crash" test this year after realizing that some manufacturers weren't paying enough attention to the passenger side.

Back in 2012, IIHS began rating vehicles to see how well they protect drivers during small overlap crashes, which involve just the front corner of the vehicle. IIHS said automakers have acted more quickly to improve protection on the driver side than on the passenger side.

"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."

Headlight Safety Also Now Key

IIHS explained that its headlight ratings also are relatively new, starting just last year in March 2016. In the beginning, few models performed well in IIHS track tests that measure the tradeoff of how well low beams and high beams illuminate the road, while not producing too much glare for oncoming car drivers.

"Headlights have long been treated as design elements instead of the critical safety equipment that they...

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