Car recalls and exploding airbags may have dominated news coverage in recent months, but vehicle safety is quickly gaining ground, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which announced its list of 2015 safety awards last week.
A total of 71 models earned the institute’s two top awards — Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick — up from 39 this time last year, giving consumers more choices for vehicles with excellent crash protection despite tougher requirements for safety, according to the group, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry.
The list is dominated by Toyota (12 vehicles on the list), Honda, and Subaru.
The Honda CR-V and the Toyota Prius v, both 2015 Top Safety Pick+ winners, were cited as examples of vehicles that were successfully modified for improved protection.
In order to qualify for one of the awards, vehicles must earn a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test, which replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a utility pole. Small overlap crashes are common in the real world, the institute noted, so it encouraged manufacturers to look for solutions.
Vehicles must also earn a good rating in each of the institute’s four other crashworthiness evaluations that include testing side protection, roof strength and head restraints. Top Safety Pick+ winners must also have an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
“This is the third year in a row that we are giving automakers a tougher challenge to meet,” Adrian Lund, the institute’s president said in a statement. “The quest for Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards is driving improvement in the small overlap front crash test and getting manufacturers to offer automatic braking technology on more and more vehicles.”
New this year, vehicles must offer an effective automatic braking capability that gets an advanced or superior rating in order to qualify for the top rating.
“Although forward collision warning on its own is a valuable feature, we decided to tighten our criteria to encourage manufacturers to offer autobrake. Systems that don’t require a driver response to avoid or mitigate a crash have the most potential for reducing crashes,” Lund added.
To view the complete list and to learn more about the testing, click here.