Skip to main content

Why should you care if your car is a Top Safety Pick

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety launches a campaign to explain how it does its work and why it matters to every driver.

Over the coming month the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS) will be providing the public with a detailed look at how it does its work. Using Youtube released videos the group will explain in detail how it comes up with its ratings and why they matter to the general public.

The IIHS is the group that does the most rigorous vehicle safety testing in America. Founded in 1959, the group is not taxpayer funded. Unlike the government agency NHTSA, which tax dollars from drivers and non-drivers alike support, IIHS is a non-profit that gets its funding primarily from the insurance companies that bombard you with advertisements featuring a stunt man or a lizard. The term “Top Safety Pick” is theirs.

Although the Institute has many benefits to the average driver it also has done some interesting studies over the years. You probably know that IIHS was the group that advocated for airbags in the US. You might even know that the group lobbied and testified before congress and even went to the Supreme Court to fight for airbags in cars. However, did you know the Institute did a study that revealed daylight savings time is correlated to reduced driving deaths? Their work helped move clocks forward. Up until 2008 nobody had ever compared child booster seats and studied their effectiveness. Until IIHS did.

IIHS also is willing to buck the conventional wisdom if that is what their studies prove. In 2010 HDLI, the groups data analysis division studied state bans on cellphones and texting and determined scientifically that neither ban reduces distracted driving crashes. In another study of which new safety features in cars actually reduce crashes the IIHS and HDLI determined there is no evidence that lane departure warnings and blind spot monitors actually reduce crashes. However, they did find that adaptive headlights, the ones that turn when a car turns, were reducing crashes. Shortly after this Lexus added blind spot monitoring to its RX350 line and stopped including adaptive front headlights. Proving that perception of safety sells more than actual safety in the marketplace.

The first video from the group is shown below. It is an interesting and revealing look at just how complex and accurate the crash test dummies the group uses have become. Some things you might not know, but maybe wondered include; “Are all the dummies the same?” “Why do they put paint on them in different colors?” “How much do they cost?” The video will answer these questions for you and many more.

The automakers take the IIHS’ ratings very, very seriously. In some case automakers have pulled cars off the market for a redesign if they don’t do well in testing. Take a look at the video to see for yourself if the testing is fair and scientific.