When you see a slow-motion video of an automobile crash test, there is a good chance the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) created it.
Founded by the insurance industry over 60 years ago, the IIHS performs scientific research on ways to lower the enormous losses (monetary and otherwise) Americans suffer on the nation’s roads.
Every year, the IIHS releases a list of cars that meet its standards. Some car companies loudly advertise an IIHS “Top Safety Pick,” while those unable to brag this way sometimes aim to get a Top Safety Pick by designing safer cars. Safer cars hurt and kill fewer people.
That is why many observers are pleased that this year’s IIHS list is a little different. For the first time, the institute is focusing closely on pedestrian safety and is using those findings to choose its Top Safety Picks.
Startling numbers from America’s roads inspired change
This year, to qualify for a Top Safety Pick or “Top Safety Pick Plus,” the cars had to do well in the institute’s headlight tests, which suggest the driver’s ability to see pedestrians on the road. But cars also had to score well for their features designed to stop the vehicles from hitting pedestrians.
The IIHS began doing vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention tests before last year’s list. However, they decided to bring a special emphasis to the issue this year, in part because numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed alarming increases in the pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on American roads. And this despite dropping fatalities in most other categories.
Better luck (and even better safety) next year
In all, the IIHS tested 219 automobile models. Of these, their tests rated 23 models as qualifying for a Top Safety Pick Plus. Another 64 rated as Top Safety Picks.
Presumably, the makers of 36 additional vehicle models are rolling up their sleeves in anticipation of next year’s tests. These 36 would have scored well enough for a Top Pick prize if the only criterion was still crashworthiness. Their scores on pedestrian protection and/or headlight safety knocked them out of the running.