- the insurance institute for highway safety (iihs) has toughened its standards for vehicles to earn top safety pick and top safety pick+ honors in 2020.
- headlights rated good or acceptable must be available on the vehicle, and to get top safety pick+ they must be standard equipment.
- iihs also requires top safety pick winners to have advanced-rated vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention; as of 2019, the pedestrian element was not required.
the insurance-industry nonprofit iihs just strengthened its requirement for side-impact safety with a more stringent test announced in november. now the group is getting tougher on pedestrian safety and headlamp quality.
iihs points out that almost half of fatal car accidents take place in the dark, and more than a quarter of the incidents take place on unlit roads. between that sobering statistic and the fact that headlamp technology is changing rapidly with the rise of led and hid headlamps, it is not surprising that the group would tighten its requirements.
iihs's engineers test a vehicle's lighting by measuring the headlamps' reach on a straightaway and on curves, using sensors on the track to measure where the light reaches and how strong it is for both high- and low-beam lights. the graphic below shows its test results for a 2019 subaru crosstrek, which earned the top good rating for its headlamps. measurements are on a straightaway; a gradual left curve with an 800-foot radius; a gradual right curve with an 800-foot radius; and sharp left and right curves, each with a 500-foot radius.
iihs's top safety pick and top safety pick+ awards are given to vehicles that pass its battery of crash tests and safety evaluations with the best scores. these include six tests: moderate overlap front, driver's-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint and seat evaluation, plus tests of headlights and latch child-safety-seat attachments. the headlight ratings did not start until 2016, 10 years after the initial launch of the top safety pick program; in that first year, only three 2016 models got the top good headlight rating out of 224 vehicles tested. in 2019, 68 of the 465 systems were rated good, while 103 got the next-best acceptable rating.
iihs's pedestrian crash-prevention ratings were rolled out in 2019 but were not factored into the top safety pick award criteria; in 2020, they will be. iihs tests vehicles in a series of track tests at 12, 25, and 37 mph and evaluates how well automated emergency braking systems warn the driver and reduce the vehicle's speed.
the 2020 award winners will start to be announced in early 2020, later than the usual schedule.