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 www.iihs.org.