The news has been filled lately with automobile defects and recalls, including
problems with faulty ignition switches, tires, and airbags. Despite these
safety issues, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has provided
Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards to 71 vehicles in 2015 (33
Top Safety Pick+ and 38 Top Safety Pick). That is an increase of 32 vehicles
receiving the two awards from the same time last year. This extensive
list of Top Safety Picks indicates that car safety is evolving rapidly.
Consumers have more vehicles to choose from that earn the Institute’s
top safety awards than ever before.
The list of Top Safety Pick winners is longer in 2015 because automakers
are altering vehicles to get the best ratings. Companies are improving
small overlap crash protection and adding front crash prevention systems
to more mainstream and affordable automobiles.
So exactly what features does a vehicle need to earn the highest IIHS safety
rating, Toy Safety Pick+? In 2015, a motor vehicle must have available
an automatic braking system that is effective in the IIHS tests at 12
and 25 MPH. Typically, these systems first alert drivers if they detect
an impending collision. If the driver fails to respond, then the brakes
are applied automatically. These features act as a second set of eyes
for the driver and often prevent serious collisions.
In 2012, the IIHS began a new, tougher frontal crash test: the small overlap
test. At first, many vehicles earned poor ratings, but automakers rose
to the challenge and now there are vehicles in nearly every price category
and size that earn good or acceptable ratings. For instance, the Toyota
Rav4 improved in the small overlap frontal crash test to a good rating
in 2015, compared to a poor 2014 rating.
Top Safety Pick winners are the vehicles that perform the best in the
Institute’s five crash tests, representing the most common types of crashes:
- Front Small Overlap: Imitates a crash in which the front corner of an automobile
collides with another object.
- Front Moderate Overlap: 40% of the total width of the automobile crashes
into a barrier on the front corner of a vehicle.
- Side Impact: Tests vehicle safety when struck on the driver side by a SUV-like
structure traveling at 31 MPH.
- Rollover: Roof strength is tested by applying force to one side of the
vehicle’s roof at a constant speed.
- Rear Impact: Mimics a rear-end crash in which a motionless vehicle is hit
by another vehicle of the same weight traveling at 20 MPH.
So while manufacturing companies have announced countless defects and recalls
in recent months, vehicle safety is improving nonetheless. Thankfully,
state of the art safety doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Many
of the safest vehicles on the road are affordable sedans, SUVs, and minivans.
For a full list of vehicle IIHS ratings, visit