Nearly five dozen 2019 models meet stricter criteria to qualify for a 2019 TOP SAFETY PICK+ or TOP SAFETY PICK award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 30 first-tier “plus” award winners earn the highest rating for passenger-side protection in a small overlap front crash and have good-rated available headlights, while the 27 winners of the second-tier award qualify with an acceptable or higher rating in the newest IIHS crash test and the nighttime headlight evaluation.
All 57 vehicles in this elite group earn good ratings in the Institute’s five other crashworthiness evaluations and have an available automatic emergency braking system that rates advanced or superior for front crash prevention.
IIHS now requires a good rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test to earn a 2019 TOP SAFETY PICK+ versus an acceptable or good rating for the 2018 award. An acceptable or good rating in the passenger-side test is a new criterion to earn a 2019 TOP SAFETY PICK.
This marks the sixth time that IIHS has raised the bar to earn the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award since introducing it in the 2013 model year to recognize vehicles that offer a superior level of safety. The TOP SAFETY PICK accolade launched in the 2006 model year to help consumers identify vehicles with the highest ratings. Over the years, IIHS has added to and strengthened criteria for both awards to encourage manufacturers to speed up safety advances.
Just over half of 2018 model vehicles evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are available with headlights that do an adequate job of lighting the road at night and limiting glare for oncoming drivers, but most good-rated headlights are optional or bundled with other features that can raise the price of the vehicle.
Since IIHS released its first headlight ratings for passenger vehicles in 2016, most manufacturers have focused on improving this key safety component. That year, only 2 of 95 headlight systems on 2016-model vehicles evaluated earned a good rating.
For the 2018 model year, the best-available headlights on 32 of 165 models evaluated earn the highest rating of good, and the best-available headlights on 58 models earn the second-highest rating of acceptable. Thirty-two models have only marginal-rated headlights, while poor-rated headlights are the only ones available for 43 models.
Just 15 vehicles qualify for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ award from IIHS after the requirements were strengthened to include good-rated headlights and good or acceptable passenger-side protection in small overlap front crashes.
Another 47 vehicles earn the TOP SAFETY PICK award, which now requires acceptable or good headlights. In contrast, headlights weren’t factored in for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK, and an acceptable headlight rating was enough to bump a 2017 award winner into "plus" territory.
The inclusion of a passenger-side crash test is a first for any IIHS award. The Institute developed the passenger-side small overlap front crash test after it became clear that some manufacturers weren't paying sufficient attention to the passenger side as they made improvements to achieve better performance in the driver-side small overlap front test.
The Lincoln Continental, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Toyota Avalon come out at the top of a group of six large cars recently evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The three cars qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, the Institute’s highest award. The Tesla Model S, the Chevrolet Impala and the Ford Taurus fall short of any award because they each earn only an acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.
Vehicles qualify for either the TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ award if they have good ratings from IIHS in five crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — and an available front crash prevention system that earns a superior or advanced rating. To qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle also must come with good or acceptable headlights
Consumers who choose a 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award winner shouldn’t have trouble seeing the road on nighttime drives. Good or acceptable ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new headlight evaluations set the latest crop of qualifiers apart. Thirty-eight models earn the “plus” accolade, and 44 earn TOP SAFETY PICK.
IIHS toughened the criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK+ to reflect new headlight evaluations launched in 2016. The recognition program is meant to encourage manufacturers to offer state-of-the-art protection for people in crashes, along with features that help drivers avoid crashes in the first place. In addition to good or acceptable headlights, the latter includes automatic braking technology, which has been part of the criteria since 2015.
For both awards, models must earn good ratings in the Institute’s small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention with standard or optional autobrake. Headlights are factored in only for the top award.
Drivers of late-model pickup trucks are likely to find themselves squinting into the darkness or temporarily blinding other drivers, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's latest headlight ratings show.
All four small pickups evaluated are available only with headlights that earn a poor rating. The same goes for 3 out of 7 large pickups. Only one large pickup, the Honda Ridgeline, is available with good-rated headlights, though all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones.
Pickups are the third vehicle category to be put through the IIHS headlight evaluations. Midsize cars were the first in March, followed by small SUVs in July.
IIHS launched its headlight ratings after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving. In the Institute's evaluations, engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle's low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers also is measured.
Not a single small SUV out of 21 tested earns a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s headlight evaluations, and only four are available with acceptable-rated headlights.
Among the 21 vehicles, there are 47 different headlight combinations available. More than two-thirds of them are rated poor, making this group of vehicles even more deficient when it comes to lighting than the midsize cars that were the first to be rated earlier this year.
Headlight performance in today’s vehicles varies widely. Government standards are based on laboratory tests, which don’t accurately gauge performance in real-world driving. The issue merits attention because about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or around dawn or dusk.
As with midsize cars, the IIHS evaluations of small SUVs showed that a vehicle’s price tag doesn’t correspond to the quality of headlights. More modern lighting types, including high-intensity discharge (HID) and LED lamps, and curve-adaptive systems, which swivel in the direction of steering, also are no guarantee of good performance.
The Toyota Prius v is the only midsize car out of 31 evaluated to earn a good rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s first-ever headlight ratings.
The best available headlights on 11 cars earn an acceptable rating, while nine only reach a marginal rating. Ten of the vehicles can’t be purchased with anything other than poor-rated headlights.
A vehicle’s price tag is no guarantee of decent headlights. Many of the poor-rated headlights belong to luxury vehicles.
The ability to see the road ahead, along with any pedestrians, bicyclists or obstacles, is an obvious essential for drivers. However, government standards for headlights, based on laboratory tests, allow huge variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in actual on-road driving. With about half of traffic deaths occurring either in the dark or in dawn or dusk conditions, improved headlights have the potential to bring about substantial reductions in fatalities.