IIHS raises bar for top safety awards

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is making it more difficult to earn its Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick-Plus awards in 2024, challenging manufacturers to offer better protection for back-seat passengers and improve their pedestrian crash-avoidance systems. Despite the more stringent requirements, 71 models qualify for 2024 awards. Of those, 22 earn Top Safety Pick-Plus, and 49 earn Top Safety Pick.

To see a list of the qualifying models, go to iihs.org and click on “IIHS Award Criteria Get Tougher in 2024.” The list is near the bottom.

“We followed the tougher requirements we introduced last year with another major update to the award criteria in 2024,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “This year’s winners are true standouts, offering the highest level of protection for both vehicle occupants and other vulnerable road users.”

Last year’s biggest change was the replacement of the original side crash test with an updated version that uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed. Initially, an acceptable or good rating was enough to garner the lower-tier Top Safety Pick award. In 2024, a good rating is required for either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick-Plus.

In addition, vehicles now need an acceptable or good rating in a revised version of the pedestrian front crash prevention evaluation to qualify for either award. The new version replaces the earlier daytime and nighttime tests with a single evaluation that includes some test runs in daylight and some in the dark.

In an even bigger change, the updated moderate front overlap test has replaced the original evaluation in the 2024 Top Safety Pick-Plus requirements. Vehicles now need an acceptable or good rating in the updated evaluation, which adds a second dummy seated behind the driver and emphasizes back-seat safety. A good rating in the original moderate overlap test is still needed for the base Top Safety Pick award.

As before, to earn either award, a vehicle must offer good protection in a small overlap front crash, in which 25% of the vehicle’s width on either side collides with another vehicle or a stationary object. This year, the driver-side and passenger-side evaluations have been combined into a single rating. The test is performed on both the driver and passenger sides, and the rating is equivalent to the lower of the two results.

The changes to the 2024 award criteria are designed to push automakers to pursue higher levels of safety. Award winners also must have good or acceptable headlights equipped on all trim levels.

“The high number of SUVs that earn awards probably reflects the dominance of those vehicles in the U.S. market,” Harkey said. “But it’s disappointing that only four pickups and four mid-size cars earn awards, considering the popularity of those classes.”


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