Insurance Organization Releases Annual List of Safest Vehicles

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Dec. 8 2017—The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced its top safety picks for 2018.

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 15 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners include four small cars, three midsize cars, five large luxury cars, two midsize nonluxury SUVs and one midsize luxury SUV. No minivans, pickups or minicars earn the highest award. Models from a wider range of vehicle types earn TOP SAFETY PICK, but there are no minicars in that category either.

Most of the TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards go to two manufacturers: Hyundai Motor Co.—which owns the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands—has six models earning the award, and Subaru has four. Mercedes-Benz has two, while Toyota, BMW and Ford Motor Co. have one each.

Toyota Motor Corp. has the most vehicles (10) on the TOP SAFETY PICK list. Hyundai is the runner-up with nine.

All but one of the seven vehicles in Subaru's 2018 lineup earn one of the awards.

The Impreza, Legacy, Outback and WRX qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+ when equipped with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights.

The Crosstrek and the Forester earn TOP SAFETY PICK, also with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights. The BRZ is the only Subaru model that doesn't qualify.

Across manufacturers, the vast majority of winners qualify only when optionally equipped because front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims.

Automakers have pledged to make autobrake standard on virtually all passenger vehicles by 2022, but for now the technology remains mostly optional, especially on nonluxury brands.

An exception is Toyota, which has equipped all but a handful of Toyota and Lexus models with standard autobrake and other advanced features.

Seven models with standard autobrake—the Toyota Camry, Corolla, Prius, Prius Prime and Highlander and the Lexus IS and NX—also have standard acceptable or good headlights and qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK without any added options.

The addition of optional curve-adaptive headlights that earn a good rating boosts the Camry to TOP SAFETY PICK+.

In 2012, IIHS began rating vehicles for protection in small overlap crashes, which involve just the front corner of the vehicle, bypassing the main structural components. It wasn't surprising that automakers acted more quickly to improve protection on the driver side than on the passenger side, and improving driver-side protection was arguably more urgent, since every vehicle on the road has a driver, while not every one has a passenger. The ultimate goal, however, was symmetric protection.

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