Car Safety Agency Makes Harder Tests; More Cars Ace Them

By Sean Tucker 03/01/2024 8:03am

Two full-size trucks after IIHS crash testing

2024 is a good year for car safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the American car safety testing group regarded as the hardest grader in the industry, made its crash tests even harder. But more cars earned its highest rating this year than last.

America’s Two Car Crash Testers

Many countries have one agency that crash tests cars, but America has two.

One is the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s funded by taxpayers. It was not part of this latest round of tests.

The other is the IIHS. A group of insurance companies fund the institute. Free from the influence of politics, it has an easy time making its tests harder.

That’s what the IIHS did this year.

Tougher Award Criteria

The institute gives out two tiers of awards – Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus – to the cars that do best in its tests.

The IIHS has seen cars grow more and more successful at protecting drivers in accidents over the past decade. High scores have grown common enough that the institute is now adding a focus on rear-seat passenger safety, and even the safety of pedestrians hit by cars.

A new front overlap test – a test that simulates two cars colliding off-center as they often do in intersections – added a rear-seat dummy simulating a child. Many vehicles, from small cars to minivans to midsize SUVs, struggled with the new test last year.

“In addition, vehicles now need an acceptable or good rating in a revised version of the pedestrian front crash prevention evaluation to qualify for either award,” the institute says. That test includes a measure of a car’s ability to avoid hitting a pedestrian in the dark – a response to a surge of such accidents.

Harder Tests, Better Students

“Despite the more stringent requirements, 71 models qualify for 2024 awards,” the IIHS says. That’s up from just 23 last year.

Among manufacturers, Hyundai Motor Group took the most awards. Its Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands totaled 16, the IIHS says. Toyota, with its Toyota and Lexus brands, followed with 12.

Among brands, Mazda took top honors with five, the IIHS announced.

“By class, small SUVs, midsize SUVs, and midsize luxury SUVs are tied for the most Top Safety Pick+ awards, with five each,” the institute says. “Midsize luxury SUVs, which qualify for an additional 12 Top Safety Pick awards, earn the most awards overall. Relatively few cars, pickups, and minivans qualify for either award.”

See the winners on the IIHS website.