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Fewer Vehicles Named Top Safety Picks as IIHS Toughens Standards

Originally posted December 26, 2013 by Phil Gusman on http://www.propertycasualty360.com

It’s getting more difficult to earn a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The IIHS raised the bar for its 2014 rating, and as a result, just 39 vehicles earned either a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick compared to 130 vehicles in 2013.

The main difference, says IIHS President Adrian Lund in a statement, is that the “small overlap front crash is now part of our basic battery of tests, and good or acceptable performance should be part of every vehicle’s safety credentials.”

In the small overlap test—introduced in 2012 and intended to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or a stationary object such as a tree—25 percent of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a five-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph.

Last year, for the 2013 ratings, IIHS says, good or acceptable small overlap performance was required only for Top Safety Pick+; vehicles that had good ratings in other tests could still earn Top Safety Pick. In fact, says IIHS, Top Safety Pick+ was introduced last year “to reward automakers that achieved good or acceptable performance in the just-introduced small overlap test….”

For 2014, a good or acceptable small overlap performance is required for Top Safety Pick, while vehicles earning the Top Safety Pick+ designation must also provide front crash prevention systems intended to help drivers avoid rear-ending a stopped or slower-moving vehicle in front of them. IIHS says front crash prevention systems include both warning systems and automatic braking.

Interestingly, with front crash prevention systems spreading so quickly through vehicle fleets, the number of Top Safety Pick+ winners for 2014 (22) outnumbers the list of Top Safety Pick winners (17).

See which vehicles earned Top Safety Pick+ and Top Safety Pick designations.