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.
In a new round of evaluations, 5 of 7 small SUVs earn good ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for occupant protection in a passenger-side small overlap front crash.
The ratings bring to 16 the number of small SUVs the Institute has evaluated in the passenger-side small overlap front test, which was introduced in 2017 to encourage manufacturers to offer the same level of protection for front-seat passengers as drivers in this type of crash.
The BMW X1; Chevrolet Equinox and its twin, the GMC Terrain; Jeep Compass and Mitsubishi Outlander earn good ratings in the passenger-side small overlap front test. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport earns a marginal rating, and the Ford Escape earns poor. For the 2018 model year, the Equinox shed weight to join the small SUV size class. Earlier models were classified as midsize.
None of the newly rated 2018 models earns better than acceptable marks for structure. (The Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are the only small SUVs evaluated so far to earn good ratings for structure in the passenger-side small overlap front test.) The Outlander Sport is marginal, and the Escape is rated poor. Both the Outlander Sport and Escape allowed too much intrusion into the occupant compartment on the right side.
Parking crashes usually don’t result in serious injuries, but repair costs can quickly mount, along with the hassle of going without the family vehicle while waiting for the body shop to finish work. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has launched a rear crash prevention ratings program to help consumers identify models with the technology that can prevent or mitigate low-speed backing crashes. Two systems earn the highest rating of superior, and four earn the second-highest rating of advanced.
Rear crash prevention encompasses several technologies. Parking sensors issue warning beeps and/or seat vibrations when the equipped vehicle gets too close to another vehicle or object directly behind it, or, in some cases, in front of it. Rear cross-traffic alert warns drivers of approaching vehicles that might cross their path as they back up. Rear automatic emergency braking systems detect objects behind a reversing vehicle and may automatically brake if the driver doesn’t heed alerts to stop.
IIHS engineers evaluated rear autobrake systems on six popular 2017 model vehicles — the BMW 5 series sedan, Cadillac XT5 SUV, Infiniti QX60 SUV, Jeep Cherokee SUV, Subaru Outback wagon and Toyota Prius hatchback.
Under the three-tier rating scheme, models with optional or standard rear crash prevention systems are rated superior, advanced or basic. Ratings are determined by whether the vehicles have available rear autobrake and, if so, how it performs in a series of car-to-car and car-to-pole tests with different approach angles. The availability of parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert also is factored in.
The Outback and XT5 earn a superior rating when equipped with optional rear autobrake, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic alert. The Cherokee, 5 series, QX60 and Prius earn an advanced rating with this optional gear.
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.
Thirteen out of 16 new booster seats for 2017 earn the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest rating of BEST BET, bringing the total number of boosters on the market with that designation to 118.
The BEST BET rating means a booster provides good safety belt fit for typical 4 to 8 year-olds in almost any car, minivan or SUV. Boosters that are rated GOOD BETs provide acceptable belt fit in almost any vehicle, while those rated Check Fit could work for some children in some vehicles. Seats designated "Not Recommended" don’t provide good belt fit and should be avoided.
A new crash test program from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety aims to ensure that manufacturers pay attention to the safety of front passengers as well as drivers.
The test was developed after it became clear that some manufacturers were giving short shrift to the right side of the vehicle when it comes to small overlap front crash protection. A good or acceptable passenger-side rating will be required to qualify for the Institute’s 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.
The first test group in the passenger-side small overlap front test program did better overall than vehicles IIHS previously evaluated for research. Ten out of 13 midsize cars tested earn a good rating, while one is acceptable and two earn a marginal rating.
In contrast with a group of 2014-16 model small SUVs tested for research, none of the 2017-18 midsize cars had a poor or marginal structural rating. Instead, the biggest problem in the new group was inconsistent airbag protection in five cars, which would put passengers’ heads at risk.
Four out of eight small pickup trucks evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earn good ratings for occupant protection in all five IIHS crashworthiness evaluations, but the lack of an automatic emergency braking system and poor-rated headlights means these pickups fall short of qualifying for either of the Institute’s safety awards.
IIHS engineers evaluated two body styles of each pickup — crew cab and extended cab. Crew cabs have four full doors and two full rows of seating. Extended cabs have two full front doors, two smaller rear doors and compact second-row seats. The Institute tests the two most popular versions of pickups because their performance can vary by body style. The ratings in this round of evaluations apply to 2017 models.
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
New midsize SUV ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that headlights are improving when it comes to visibility, but many still need to do a better job of lighting the road ahead while limiting bothersome glare.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2017 Volvo XC60 are the only models available with good-rated headlights among the 19 midsize SUVs and 18 midsize luxury SUVs evaluated in this new round of tests. Twelve SUVs are available with headlights rated acceptable, while 23 aren’t available with anything other than marginal- or poor-rated headlights.
Two all-electric vehicles fall short of meeting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s awards criteria, but consumers who want to minimize gas consumption while also prioritizing safety can choose from two plug-in hybrids that earn the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.
The two recently evaluated all-electric models are the 2017 Tesla Model S and the 2017 BMW i3. The plug-in hybrid models are the Chevrolet Volt, whose award was announced in December, and the Toyota Prius Prime.
To qualify for the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK award, a vehicle must earn good ratings in all five crashworthiness evaluations — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — and come with a front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating. The “plus” is awarded to vehicles that meet all those criteria and also 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.
The latest booster seat ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that child seat manufacturers have mastered something that once eluded them: building a seat that provides good safety belt fit for the typical 4-¬ to 8-¬year-¬old passenger.
Out of 53 new models evaluated, 48 earn the top rating of BEST BET, meaning they are likely to provide good belt fit for a 4 to 8 year-¬old in almost any car, minivan or SUV. When the Institute first began rating boosters in 2008, only a quarter of the seats evaluated earned the BEST BET designation.