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IIHS Makes Key Change To 2017 Top Safety Pick Plus Requirements

Earning the best safety score in the U.S. auto industry is about to trip up a lot of cars we consider safe.

Starting in 2017 The Insurance Institue for Highway Safety will require vehicles to have headlights which the group judges to be “Good” or “Acceptable” in testing in order to earn the highest safety rating. Also, the group plans to test every trim level that has a different headlight type. Thus, a model with an optional headlight system that is rarely purchased won’t earn top scores on the base model if the headlights are not as strong.

If you think pricey cars score better than affordable ones, think again.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts the most rigorous automotive safety testing in America. The data collected in the testing is tabulated, and then the vehicle tested is scored according a formula the group has long used but continues to refine. The most well-known part of the test, the front and side crash tests are now universally aced by all automakers’ models. However, there are a parts not all cars can do well on.

For example, the premium 2016 Audi A4 scored “Poor” on the small frontal overlap test. The small frontal overlap test was introduced in 2012 by IIHS to judge how well a car does when it hits a telephone pole with just the corner of the vehicle. Since much of the crash structure is not involved in the impact, the results of this type of crash are surprisingly deadly. Almost all popular models now score good on the test, but as the A4 proves, testing still uncovers some surprises.

In addition to adding the small frontal overlap test in 2012, IIHS has been making forward collision prevention and mitigation with automatic emergency braking a requirement for the top score, called Top Safety Pick Plus. Originally the requirements of these systems needed only be basic to earn top ranking, but now IIHS requires an advanced or superior-rated system to get the best score. With the new addition of headlight testing, IIHS continues to work to make vehicles better by shining a light on safety.

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