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IIHS to Toughen Criteria for Top Safety Picks Tests in 2020

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced it will introduce stricter standards when carrying out crash tests on vehicles in 2020. It will now be more difficult for some brands’ vehicles to obtain the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ designation.

In particular, the agency is focusing on headlight performance. As of now, only one variant or trim of a model need earn a score of Good or Acceptable in this category for the model to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Starting in 2020, all headlights offered in different trims of a model will need to earn at least an Acceptable score for it to be eligible for a Top Safety Pick Plus designation.

Headlights have improved significantly in recent years, but more needs to be done. The IIHS points out that in 2016, the first year in which headlight performance was tested, only three out of 224 models tested earned a good rating. In 2019, that rose to 171 (68 got the Good score, 103 a designation of Acceptable) out of a total 465 systems tested.

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Photo: D.Boshouwers

Part of the reason for the change in 2020 is that many of those current Good scores were obtained because one optional set of headlights scored well for visibility. Not all of the trims scored Acceptable or better. The IIHS reminds consumers that they should take this into account when shopping for a vehicle.

Automakers naturally won’t put a lot of emphasis on the distinction, and be content to use the best score earned and have it associated with the model as a whole.

The IIHS will also require that vehicles’ forward collision prevention systems earn an Advanced score, in testing for both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian collisions, to earn the best possible Top Safety Pick+ rating. The Good rating will also be the baseline score needed in all crash testing, including the passenger-side small-overlap test.

For consumers, all of this means that when 2020 models receive a Top Safety Pick rating next year, it will mean that much more. For many automakers, it will mean rolling up their sleeves to improve their products in these key areas.

Photo: IIHS