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IIHS "Top Safety Pick+" Rating Criteria Changes Again for the 2015 Model Year

IIHS "Top Safety Pick+" Rating Criteria Changes Again for the 2015 Model Year

By Jeff Youngs, June 02, 2014
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which performs crash-prevention and crash-protection testing on new vehicles, has changed the requirements necessary to earn a "Top Safety Pick+" rating for the 2015 model year. Any 2015 model-year vehicle must receive an "Advanced" or "Superior" front crash-prevention rating in order to earn the "Top Safety Pick+" designation. Previously, vehicles needed only a "Basic."

A front crash-prevention system uses cameras, lasers, or radar to detect when a vehicle is getting too close to the one in front of it. Most systems issue an audible or visible warning to the driver that a crash may be imminent and pre-charge the braking system to prepare the vehicle for maximum braking power if necessary. Some systems will autonomously engage the brakes if the driver fails to take action. Occasionally, autonomous braking occurs without first warning the driver.

In the most recent round of IIHS evaluations, 21 of 24 vehicles earned a rating of "Advanced" or higher for front crash prevention. All of the vehicles were in higher price brackets.

"We know that this technology is helping drivers avoid crashes," said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "The advantage of autobrake is that even in cases where a crash can't be avoided entirely, the system will reduce speed. Reducing the speed reduces the amount of damage that occurs to both the striking and struck cars and reduces injuries to people in those cars."

The IIHS tests autobrake systems at 12 mph and at 25 mph in order to determine if they provide Basic, Advanced, or Superior front crash-prevention capability. Those systems meeting the performance criteria established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and which provide a warning combined with a minimal amount of speed reduction in IIHS tests receive a "Basic" rating. An "Advanced" rating is given to vehicles that combine moderate speed reduction with or without a warning prior to engagement. Vehicles receiving a "Superior" rating provide major speed reduction plus a warning prior to engagement.

The IIHS says that about 40% of 2014 model-year vehicles offer forward-collision warning technology, and that different versions of the technology provide varying levels of effectiveness. Acknowledging that some models will earn multiple front crash-prevention ratings because the auto manufacturer provides different versions of the technology depending on the trim level or option package, the IIHS recommends that consumers conduct their own thorough research before buying a particular car.

"Sorting through the various trade names and features can be confusing, even if you're looking at models from the same manufacturer," said Zuby. "Before buying, consumers should consult IIHS ratings to find out if the specific model they are considering comes with a top-rated front crash-prevention system."

In the latest round of testing, and when properly optioned, the 2014 model-year BMW 5 Series, BMW X5, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class earn the highest rating of "Superior" for front crash prevention. Additionally, the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Genesis receives a "Superior" rating.

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