ARLINGTON, Va. – Sixty-four cars and SUVs qualify for an award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) under new criteria that prioritize the protection of pedestrians in addition to vehicle occupants.
To qualify for a 2020 TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ award, vehicles must have good ratings in each of the Institute’s six crashworthiness evaluations. They must also have good or acceptable headlights and available front crash prevention that earns advanced or superior ratings in both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.
The “plus” is awarded to models that come exclusively with good or acceptable headlights, making it easier for consumers to find properly equipped vehicles. Of the 64 award winners, 23 qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK+.
No minivans or pickups qualify for either award so far this year. That could change if automakers make midyear production changes and nominate the vehicle for testing.
“The headlight ratings that have been part of our awards criteria in recent years have pushed automakers to pay more attention to this essential equipment,” says IIHS President David Harkey. “However, finding vehicles with the right headlights can be a challenge for consumers. We wanted to reward automakers that have removed this obstacle.”
Six of the “plus” winners — the Genesis G70, Honda Insight, Hyundai Nexo, Lexus NX, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid and Tesla Model 3 — are not sold with anything other than good-rated headlights. A good rating means headlights provide the best balance of visibility and lack of excessive glare for drivers of oncoming vehicles.
Good visibility is key to avoiding crashes in the dark. In the time it takes a driver to react to an obstacle under ideal conditions — 1½ seconds — a car traveling 55 mph covers about 120 feet. Thus, headlights need to illuminate obstacles well before that. The difference between good-rated headlights and poor ones can be the difference between seeing an obstacle in time to stop and crashing into it.
Mazda, Hyundai are standouts
Among automakers, Mazda has the most TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards with five — for the Mazda 3 sedan, Mazda 3 hatchback, Mazda 6, CX-3 and CX-5. The company earns an additional TOP SAFETY PICK for the CX-9.
Hyundai Motor Group — which includes the Genesis and Kia brands in addition to Hyundai — has the most winners overall, 14 earning a TOP SAFETY PICK award and three earning TOP SAFETY PICK+.
No vehicles from Fiat Chrysler or Mitsubishi earn either award this year. Ford/Lincoln, Volvo and BMW haven’t picked up any TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards, while General Motors and Nissan each earn only one TOP SAFETY PICK and one TOP SAFETY PICK+ award.