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Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Tests and Awards

IIHS singles out 64 cars and SUVs as the safest of 2020

There’s a new emphasis on protecting pedestrians and occupants this year

Cars on U.S. highways are getting safer, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is singling out 64 models for its 2020 top safety honors.

This year, vehicles must meet new criteria to qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. They must have a “good” rating in each of IHSS’ six crashworthiness evaluations, and there’s also a new emphasis on protecting pedestrians in addition to vehicle occupants.

The “plus” is awarded to models that come exclus...

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    Tesla Model 3 earns IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award

    The safety group put alternative power vehicles through the paces

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Tesla Model 3 as one of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ choices for 2019, the brand’s first such recognition.

    The Model 3 is the least expensive of Tesla’s three models. Its price starts at $35,000, while the Model X starts at around $81,000 and the Model S starts at around $75,000.

    IIHS made a point of reviewing and testing vehicles with alternative power sources, including the Audi e-tron, the only other plug-in to earn a TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation. The electric Chevrolet Bolt missed the cut because the glare from its headlights subtracted too many points.

    "Vehicles with alternative powertrains have come into their own," IIHS Chief Research Officer David Zuby says. "There's no need to trade away safety for a lower carbon footprint when choosing a vehicle."

    Vehicles are put through a series of tests that judge their safety. To earn a TOP SAFETY PICK  designation, a car or truck must get at least a good rating in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap test.

    It must also feature an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and good- or acceptable-rated headlights.

    Top safety designation

    The TOP SAFETY PICK+ award is the top available classification. To earn it, vehicles must get  good ratings in the passenger-side small overlap test and the headlight evaluation.

    IIHS says the Model 3 got good ratings across the board for crashworthiness. The standard front crash prevention system was rated superior, avoiding collisions in both the 12 mph and 25 mph IIHS track tests. The headlights earned a good rating.

    IIHS says the vehicle’s structure was impressive in the organization’s driver-side small overlap front test, which proves a challenge for many vehicles that are subjected to it.

    The Chevy Bolt did well in IIHS’ crashworthiness tests. It picked up mostly good ratings, but it emerged from the passenger-side small overlap test with only an acceptable rating. The acceptable rating would not have prevented the Bolt from getting the top safety designation, but its headlights were judged to put off too much glare in the face of oncoming traffic.

    The Hyundai Nexo has the distinction of being the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to earn an award from IIHS over the summer. Like the Model 3 and the e-tron, the Nexo, a midsize luxury SUV, qualified for TOP SAFETY PICK+ based on standard equipment.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Tesla Model 3 as one of its TOP SAFETY PICK+ choices for 2019, the brand’s first such recog...
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    Most pickup trucks aren’t that good at protecting passengers in a crash

    The latest IIHS crash tests found only two out of 11 earn a ‘good’ rating

    Pickup trucks remain popular with consumers and big sellers for automakers, but new crash tests show most don’t do a good job of protecting front-seat passengers in a crash.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put 11 current model pickups through front-side impact tests and only two -- the Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan --  earned a good rating.

    The Honda Ridgeline, which was rated “acceptable” in the passenger-side test, was the only pickup to earn a 2019 Top Safety Pick award, bolstered by its good headlights and available front crash prevention.

    The Toyota Tacoma also did well in the passenger-side test, earning an “acceptable” rating. However, the vehicle missed out on the Top Safety Pick award because of its headlights.

    Toyota Tundra rated poor

    In this latest round of tests, IIHS rated 11 crew cab pickups in the passenger-side test — four small and seven large. Among full-size pickups, the Toyota Tundra only managed a poor rating while five of the trucks were rated as marginal.

    "We commend Ford, Nissan and Ram for providing state-of-the-art crash protection for both drivers and front passengers of their large pickup models," says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. "As a group, however, the pickup class still has a lot of work to do."

    The video below graphically illustrates the damage that occurs to a pickup when it is struck from the front on the passenger’s side.

    Working to improve

    Automakers whose trucks lagged in the crash tests say they are constantly working to improve safety.

    “We’ll continue to look for ways to improve in an effort to exceed customers’ expectations — particularly in new testing such as IIHS’ passenger-side front small overlap (tests) for pickup trucks,” a spokesman for Toyota told CNBC.

    What IIHS calls a “small overlap crash” occurs when just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree. Two years ago, the organization developed the passenger-side test to ensure that occupants on both sides are protected in one of these crashes.

    IIHS says it took longer for automakers to meet the tough safety guidelines in pickups, so it isn’t surprising that they’re behind on the passenger-side standard. The group says most pickups earn a “good” rating for protecting the driver side.

    Pickup trucks remain popular with consumers and big sellers for automakers, but new crash tests show most don’t do a good job of protecting front-seat pass...
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    IIHS names the Honda HR-V as its Top Safety Pick for 2019

    The small SUV has made numerous advances from last year

    Honda’s small SUV, the HR-V, is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick for 2019, with a few caveats. IIHS researchers specify that the car needs to be equipped with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights.

    Honda has refreshed the HR-V model for 2019, and IIHS says those changes have been big improvements when it comes to keeping occupants safe. Updates to the vehicle’s structure improved frontal crash performance, as demonstrated in the IIHS' small and moderate front overlap tests.

    Another safety feature, Honda Sensing, is now standard on EX and above trims. It includes Forward Collision Warning; Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) incorporating Lane Departure Warning (LDW); Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS); and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

    Swept the crashworthiness tests

    With these improvements, the HR-V won the highest possible rating of "Good" in all six crashworthiness tests and a "Superior" rating for its available Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS).

    Kelley Blue Book’s (KBB) review of the Honda HR-V shows an MSRP range of between $21,515 and $29,535. The editor’s review calls it a small SUV that’s big on interior room, style, and safety.

    “For those seeking compact-car dimensions, price, and fuel economy in a SUV-like form, the 2019 Honda HR-V pushes all the right buttons,” the reviewer writes. “Loaded with features and now with more trim choices and options, the HR-V offers more passenger volume than the Mazda CX-3, better fuel economy than the Chevy Trax or Jeep Renegade and, unlike the Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR, the option of all-wheel drive.”

    Introduced in 2016 model year

    Honda introduced the HR-V in the 2016 model year as an option for consumers looking for an entry-level SUV. It has a 1.8-liter I-4 rated at 141 hp engine under the hood. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels.

    The 2019 HR-V was given an acceptable headlight rating for the LED reflector headlights on its Touring trim. However, the HR-V's base halogen headlight received a poor rating because IIHS said they provide inadequate visibility in multiple headlight test scenarios.

    The HR-V made up for it with its showing in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test.

    IIHS said those are key elements to making it as the organization’s Top Safety Pick.

    Honda’s small SUV, the HR-V, is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick for 2019, with a few caveats. IIHS researchers specify...
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    Two minivans earn IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings

    But a third, the Toyota Sienna, falls short

    Consumers shopping for a minivan often have safety in mind since these vehicles are mostly used by young families.

    With that in mind, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) put three popular minivans through the paces and gave the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica its Top Safety Pick rating, but the third vehicle, the Toyota Sienna, fell short of the rating's standard.

    The Odyssey did best in the side overlap crash tests with what the judges called a "strong" performance. The Pacifica squeaked by with an "acceptable" rating. But the Sienna's performance was characterized as "marginal."

    When just the front corner of a vehicle strikes another car or object, that's considered a small overlap crash. They're fairly common and were responsible for many deaths and serious injuries before automakers focused their efforts on making these parts of the vehicle more sturdy and secure.

    The video below, produced by IIHS, illustrates it very well.

    Significant improvements

    IIHS has tested vehicles for how they protect front seat occupants since 2012 and says carmakers have made significant improvements. Getting at least an acceptable rating on overlap crash tests is a requirement for any vehicle to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating.

    "In our latest passenger-side tests, we didn't find any performance issues with safety belts or airbags like we did when we evaluated small and midsize SUVs earlier this year and midsize cars last year," said David Zuby, IIHS' chief research officer. "Instead, we saw some structural deficiencies on the right side that still need addressing."

    IIHS says Toyota began making changes to the Sienna's structure in 2015, resulting in improved protection for the driver side. However, it didn't make the same modifications on the passenger side.

    Problems on the passenger side

    As a result, IIHS says the Sienna's structure rates poor in the passenger-side test.

    "A safety cage must be strong enough to resist intrusion in a crash to protect the people inside, no matter where they sit in the vehicle," Zuby said.

    In the case of the Sienna, the IIHS tests found objects hitting the passenger side intruded as much as 20 inches into the lower occupant compartment and more than 16 inches at the dashboard.

    IIHS says the Pacifica also had issues on the front passenger side but that sensors from the crash dummies suggested a low risk of injury, helping to offset its less than perfect structural rating.

    Consumers shopping for a minivan often have safety in mind since these vehicles are mostly used by young families.With that in mind, the Insurance Inst...
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    Researchers find limitations in autonomous car technology

    An IIHS report warns drivers not to completely rely on automated features

    Cars with advanced safety technology such as driver-assist and active-lane keeping may give drivers added peace of mind, but a new report suggests some of that confidence may be misplaced.

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested five systems in four cars -- Tesla, Mercedes, BMW, and Volvo -- and found variable performance in typical driving situations.

    Situations included approaching stopped vehicles and negotiating hills and curves. It found that the current generation of these systems are not completely reliable substitutes for human drivers.

    The researchers said they wanted to find out if these automated systems handled driving tasks the same way a human driver would. In many cases, they didn't.

    Some of the discrepancies were minor, such as too-cautious braking. In some cases, however, they were dangerous. In one case, a vehicle veered sharply toward the shoulder when its sensors couldn't detect lanes.

    Remain aware of their limitations

    Some features work well, as long as drivers use them within their limitations. For example, adaptive cruise control (ACC) maintains a set speed and following distance from the vehicle in front you.

    Researchers found it will slow the car if the car in front is slowing down, but it may not always react to a car that is stopped in the roadway. It also doesn't react to traffic signals or other traffic controls.

    Active lane-keeping will steer the car to keep the vehicle within its lane, but drivers must continue to hold the wheel.

    In a number of high-profile fatal accidents involving Tesla vehicles, investigators have found that the driver-assist feature was engaged but the drivers’ hands were not on the wheel.

    The IIHS study found that these advanced features can be useful in helping with steering, speed control, and following distance, but the human behind the wheel must still drive the car at all times.

    Areas of concern

    "The new tests are an outgrowth of our research on Level 2 autonomy," said Jessica Jermakian, IIHS senior research engineer. "We zeroed in on situations our staff have identified as areas of concern during test drives with Level 2 systems, then used that feedback to develop road and track scenarios to compare vehicles."

    It should be noted that most of the issues highlighted in the IIHS tests are noted in the vehicle owners’ manuals, which remind drivers that they must remain alert and in control of the vehicle at all times.

    In one of the most recent accidents involving a Tesla, a Utah woman slammed into the back of a fire department vehicle while her Model S’ semi-autonomous Autopilot feature was engaged. The driver admitted to looking at her phone before the crash, despite the company’s mandate that customers remain alert while using Autopilot and not rely on the system entirely.

    The IIHS data, meanwhile, may bolster the case of some consumer and safety groups that have urged Congress to slow down in its push to put fully-autonomous vehicles on America's highways.

    Cars with advanced safety technology such as driver-assist and active-lane keeping may give drivers added peace of mind, but a new report suggests some of...
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    Ford Explorer and Jeep Cherokee rated 'poor' in passenger side crashes

    Six of eight mid-size SUVs rated 'good' or 'acceptable'

    Six of eight mid-size SUVs earned good or acceptable ratings in the latest round of crash tests, but the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were cited for “major flaws.”

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) passenger-side small overlap test measures how well a vehicle performs when just the front corner of the vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object, such as a tree or utility pole.

    IIHS has rated vehicles in driver-side small overlap crashes since 2012 and has noted vast safety improvements in this area in the years since. The organization launched the same test for the passenger side last year.

    Risk to passengers

    "Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies," said David Zuby, IIHS' chief research officer. "In those SUVs, a front-seat passenger would be at risk of injuries to the head, hip or leg in a right-side small overlap front crash."

    IIHS said the Ford Explorer earned a “poor” rating because the crash “seriously compromised” the vehicle's structure. Tests shows that intrusion reached 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard.

    Following the test, the door sill was moved in six inches toward the crash dummy. Post-crash measures showed a passenger had a high likelihood of suffering injuries to the head and right hip.

    IIHS says the Ford also showed poor structural performance on the driver side tests. It said the automaker is redesigning the Explorer and new models will have improved structural integrity on both the driver and passenger sides.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee issues

    As for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the passenger-side test revealed a maximum intrusion of 10 inches at the lower door hinge pillar. More alarming, the group said, was the impact to the passenger dummy's head.

    The impact caused it to hit the dashboard hard through the front airbag and then, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, it moved outside the vehicle during rebound.

    “Measures from the dummy indicated that right leg injuries would be likely in a crash of this severity, and a head injury would be possible,” IIHS concluded.

    The organization expressed some concern about possible head injuries to a passenger in the Honda Pilot, but overall, the vehicle had good structural performance. The GMC Acadia, Kia Sorento, and Volkswagen Atlas all earned “good” ratings. IIHS said the Acadia had maximum intrusion of just two inches on the right side of the toepan.

    The tested vehicles were all 2018 models, except for the Sorento, which IIHS said had been redesigned for 2019 to improve safety performance in both driver and passenger impact tests.

    Six of eight mid-size SUVs earned good or acceptable ratings in the latest round of crash tests, but the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee were cited f...
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    IIHS names redesigned Mazda CX-5 a top award winner

    Headlights made the difference

    The redesigned Mazda CX-5 is the latest vehicle to win the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) highest safety award -- TOP SAFETY PICK+.

    The 2017 model, like its 2016 predecessor, has good ratings in all five of the Institute's crashworthiness tests: small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints.

    The small SUV's standard front crash prevention earned an advanced rating, while an optional, higher-speed system was rated superior. Both avoided a collision in the 12 mph IIHS track test, and the optional system avoided a collision at 25 mph.

    The CX-5's Grand Touring and Sport trim lines have headlights that earned an acceptable rating. The former trim includes high beam assist, a feature that automatically switches between high beams and low beams, depending on the presence of other vehicles.

    To qualify for the 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK award, a vehicle must have good crashworthiness ratings across the board and an available front crash prevention rating that earns an advanced or superior rating.

    The "plus" is awarded to vehicles that also have good or acceptable headlights.

    The redesigned Mazda CX-5 is the latest vehicle to win the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) highest safety award -- TOP SAFETY PICK+.The...
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    Mazda CX-9 captures top safety rating in IIHS testing

    The latest test results were superior to earlier findings

    The midsize 2017 Mazda CX-9 SUV has captured the top award offered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings, a superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable-rated headlights made the difference from tests performed on the 2015 model.

    A vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests in order to earn the 2017 "Top Safety Pick+" award.

    Available advanced or superior front crash prevention and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating are required as well.

    A new design turns the tables

    The CX-9 was redesigned for the 2016 model year. Beginning with 2017 models built after November 2016, Mazda modified the deployment pattern of the side curtain airbags to improve protection in front and side crashes.

    The 2015 model of the CX-9 rated poor for protection in small overlap front crashes, as the structure was seriously compromised and the side airbag didn't deploy.

    It also came up short for roof strength, which is important for protecting occupants in a rollover crash, and for head restraints, which help prevent neck injuries in a rear crash. The SUV earned only marginal ratings in those tests.

    The 2017 CX-9 also offers optional front crash prevention that earns a superior rating. In IIHS track tests at 12 and 25 mph, it avoided collisions.

    The system also includes Forward Collision Warning that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

    The superior-rated front crash prevention comes on the CX-9's Grand Touring and Signature trims, which also are equipped with the CX-9's best available headlights, which are rated acceptable. Other trim levels come with marginal headlights.

    The midsize 2017 Mazda CX-9 SUV has captured the top award offered by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)Across-the-board good crashworth...
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    Toyota Highlander earns top IIHS award

    The vehicle's front crash prevention system earned a superior rating

    A superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable-rated headlights have earned the 2017 Toyota Highlander the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top award.

    Unlike most TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners, which only meet the front crash prevention and headlight criteria when they are equipped with optional features, the Highlander qualifies for the award with standard equipment.

    In IIHS track tests of the 2017 system, the midsize SUV avoided a collision in the 12 mph test. In the 25 mph test, it avoided a collision in 4 out of 5 runs and slowed 21 mph the fifth time.

    The new standard front crash prevention system also includes a forward collision warning component that meets criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    To qualify for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five IIHS crashworthiness tests -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints -- as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable or good headlight rating.

    A superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable-rated headlights have earned the 2017 Toyota Highlander the Insurance Institute for Highway S...
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    IIHS: Most child booster seats do a fine job

    That doesn't mean there aren't problems, though

    Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.

    Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 earn the top rating of BEST BET. That means they're likely to provide good belt fit for a 4 to 8 year-old in almost any car, minivan, or SUV.

    By comparison, when the IIHS first started rating boosters in 2008, only a quarter of those evaluated earned the BEST BET designation.

    Problems persist

    However, several seats that don’t do their job and are rated Not Recommended can still be found on store shelves. Among them are two brand new models from Dorel Juvenile.

    “Parents looking for a safe option for kids who have outgrown seats with built-in harnesses have more choices than ever,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Jessica Jermakian. “Unfortunately, we can’t declare total victory because manufacturers continue to sell subpar boosters.”

    Of the 53 new seats, the Cosco Easy Elite and the Cosco Highback 2-in-1 DX -- both made by Dorel -- are rated Not Recommended. Three others, the Britax Parkway SGL in backless mode, the Lil Fan Club Seat 2-in-1 in highback mode, and the Peg Perego Viaggio Flex 120 are rated Check Fit, meaning they may work for some children in some vehicles. The remaining new seats are BEST BETs.

    All told, there are 118 BEST BETs among currently available boosters, including old models. Additionally, there are nine GOOD BETs (seats that provide acceptable belt fit in most vehicles), 27 Check Fit, and five Not Recommended.

    A range of prices

    Top-rated boosters are available in all different price ranges. Of the boosters introduced this year, the most affordable is the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe, available at Walmart for less than $25.

    The most expensive is the $330 Graco 4Ever All-in-1 with Safety Surround, a rear-facing infant seat that converts first to a forward-facing child restraint and then to a booster as the child grows.

    Complete ratings may be found at www.iihs.org/.

    Child seat manufacturers have finally gotten the hang of it.Out of 53 new models evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS) 48 ear...
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    An IIHS top safety award for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    The midsize luxury car aced the battery of tests

    And the winner is...

    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS) has bestowed its TOP SAFETY PICK+ award on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

    The award came as the midsize luxury car earned good ratings in all five of the Institute's crashworthiness evaluations -- small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.

    The vehicle also has a standard front crash prevention system that earns an advanced rating. An additional, optional system boosts the car's front crash prevention rating to superior.

    The C-Class was redesigned for 2015, but IIHS only recently evaluated it for crashworthiness. The car's structure held up well in the challenging small overlap test with maximum intrusion into the occupant compartment of just 4 inches. The earlier generation of the C-Class had intrusion of 20 inches at the footrest and earned a marginal rating.

    The roof strength test also yielded notable results. The C-Class was found to have a strength-to-weight ratio of 7, among the highest ever registered. A ratio of 4 or higher is required for a good rating. Roof strength is important for protection in a rollover crash.

    To qualify for 2016 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five IIHS crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

    And the winner is... The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS) has bestowed its TOP SAFETY PICK+ award on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Th...
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