For many car buyers, safety is at the top of the must-have list. Several organizations test and rate vehicles, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a resource for consumers. The IIHS is a non-profit organization that uses research and education to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and property damage caused by vehicle accidents. The organization’s most important awards are the Top Safety Pick and the Top Safety Pick+. So, what does it take to get a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS?
What does the IIHS Top Safety Pick require?
Vehicles that earn the two Top Safety Pick awards have the best safety ratings on the IIHS evaluations within their size classes. The Top Safety Pick was awarded by the IIHS since the 2006 model year and the Top Safety Pick+ has been awarded since the 2013 model year.
The IIHS uses six different tests to examine a vehicle’s crashworthiness. These are the moderate overlap front, driver side minor overlap front, passenger side minor overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. The IIHS also looks at frontal crash prevention systems, headlight systems, seat belt reminders, and child seat mounting hardware (called LATCH). These ratings feed into the six crash tests when the IIHS determines which vehicles earn Top Safety Pick ratings.
While requirements change for different model years, for the 2022 model year, a vehicle earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick will require good ratings (the highest rating) in all six crashworthiness tests, advanced or superior ratings for frontal impact prevention in both vehicle situations to vehicle and vehicle to pedestrian, and acceptable or good ratings for available headlamps. The difference for Top Safety Pick+ vehicles is that headlights are widely rated as acceptable or good and are standard on the base model rather than being an optional upgrade, explains MotorTrend†
The Six IIHS Crash Safety Tests
The IIHS crashes real vehicles with dummies in them in six different crash tests. Three tests check what happens in a frontal crash test: moderate front overlap, driver side small front overlap and passenger side small front overlap. In the moderate front overlap test, the vehicle travels at 40 mph to a 2-meter high barrier. Approximately 40% of the vehicle’s front width on the driver’s side touches the guardrail.
In the other two frontal crash tests, 25% of the vehicle’s width collided with a 1.5m high barrier on either side to see what would happen if the car hit a tree or pole. The vehicle’s rating on these three tests is determined by its structural performance, injury measures and dummy movements.
In side crash tests, the performance of the structure and side airbags is checked in the event that the vehicle is struck from the side by an SUV. Ratings are determined by driver and passenger injury measures, head protection, and structural performance.
The roof strength test looks at how the vehicle would perform in a rollover. It checks whether the roof is strong or can fail. The test presses a slanted metal sheet onto one side of the roof to determine the force (or strength-to-weight ratio) required to crush the roof 5 inches.
The headrest and seat tests look at whether a vehicle’s design can prevent whiplash and neck injuries. A dummy with a realistic spine is placed in the vehicle’s seat, which is then placed on a sled before simulating a rear-end collision. The results of these six crashworthiness tests and the frontal impact and headlamp ratings determine whether a vehicle is awarded a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+.
The Importance of the IIHS Testing and Assessment
The IIHS’s tests and assessments help consumers and manufacturers alike. Thus, the return of the Ford Bronco was met with great enthusiasm and demand. However, the IIHS found that the new 2021 Bronco fell short with its headlights and headrests. It has not earned a Top Safety Pick designation, says JD Power† While consumers use this information when deciding whether or not to purchase a vehicle like the 2021 Ford Bronco, manufacturers can also use this information when designing future models.
Safety during a collision and provisions to help prevent a collision are often crucial for consumers. Looking for a vehicle that is a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ winner can help this peace of mind.
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