The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety says it's raising the bar for automakers, creating tougher test criteria to make sure vehicles can protect people in crashes and do more to help prevent crashes that can injure or kill.
The safety advocacy group, which performs a variety of crash tests on vehicles, added two new tests in the past year: one for improved headlights, which was included in the 2017 "Top Pick Plus" ranking, but not in the "Top Pick" results, and the new passenger-side small overlap front crash. The 2018 Subaru Impreza, Legacy, Outback and WRX models earned the institute's highest Top Safety Pick+ award when those models are equipped with Subaru's EyeSight driver assist technology and LED steering responsive headlights.
Another 47 vehicles earned the Top Safety Pick designation, where Toyota had 10 vehicle models, with Hyundai recognized for nine models. The vehicles must also meet the previous requirements of scoring good in other crash tests and earning an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a statement.
In contrast, headlights weren't factored in for 2017 TOP SAFETY PICK, and an acceptable headlight rating was enough to bump a 2017 award victor into "plus" territory. It began measuring both how well low and high beams illuminated the road and the amount of glare they produce for oncoming vehicles as part of its ratings in 2016.
Most cars on the top pick lists only qualified when they came with optional equipment, such as automatic emergency braking.
Headlights that effectively light up the road are another area where the IIHS has raised its standards.
"The improvements in occupant protection have been incredible over the past decades", says Lund.