The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released details of its 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award winners, which includes the vehicles that perform best in headlight tests.
Good or acceptable ratings in the Institute’s new headlight evaluations set the latest crop of qualifiers apart. Thirty-eight models earned the ‘plus’ accolade, and 44 earned Top Safety Pick.
IIHS toughened the criteria for Top Safety Pick+ to incorporate new headlight evaluations launched in 2016. The aim was to encourage manufacturers to offer state-of-the-art protection for people in crashes, along with features that help drivers avoid crashes in the first place.
“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the awards,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “Manufacturers are focusing on improving this basic safety equipment, and we’re confident that the winners’ list will grow as the year progresses.”
For both awards, models must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention with standard or optional autobrake. Headlights are factored in only for the top award.
Toyota/Lexus led manufacturers with nine 2017 Top Safety Pick+ winners, including the updated Toyota Corolla, while Honda and its Acura division picked up five Top Safety Pick+ awards.
Among 2017 models, only seven are available with good-rated headlights. They are the Chevrolet Volt small car, Honda Ridgeline pickup, Hyundai Elantra small car, Hyundai Santa Fe midsize SUV, Subaru Legacy midsize car, Toyota Prius v midsize car and Volvo XC60 midsize luxury SUV.
IIHS launched headlight ratings in the spring after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allowed for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving. Night time visibility is critical to highway safety because about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or at dawn or dusk.
In the Institute’s evaluations, engineers measure the light projected from a vehicle’s low beams and high beams as it travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured. Vehicles equipped with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on the presence of other vehicles, can get extra credit.
The 2017 winner’s circle included 21 models with a standard front crash prevention system with automatic braking capabilities. These included the Acura MDX and RLX; Audi A3, A4, and Q7; Genesis G80 and G90; Lexus ES and RX; Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class; Toyota Avalon, Corolla, Prius, RAV4 and Yaris iA; Volkswagen Passat; and Volvo S60, S90, V60, XC60 and XC90. Automakers have voluntarily committed to making autobrake a standard feature on all models by 2022.
IIHS inaugurated Top Safety Pick in the 2006 model year to help consumers identify vehicles with the best safety performance without having to sort through a lot of ratings information. The Top Safety Pick+ accolade was introduced in the 2013 model year to recognize vehicles that offer an advanced level of safety.