IIHS' List Of Top Safety Picks Tumbles After Stricter Criteria Are Implemented

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Last year, 101 cars qualified. This year, it's down to fewer than half that.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed the first batch of winners after introducing updated crash criteria.

Toyota emerged as the winner, with nine Top Safety Pick+ awards and six Top Safety Pick awards. Honda and Acura took second place, with six Top Safety Pick+ and two Top Safety Picks. Mazda received a bronze medal with only six Top Safety Pick awards.

To understand how impressive the above feats are, we need to look at some overall figures. Before implementing the latest criteria, 101 cars received an award from the IIHS, of which 65 were the highest-tier Top Safety Pick+. After introducing the new standards, only 48 models qualified for an award. Of those, just 28 earned a Top Safety Pick+.

The coveted Top Safety Pick+ award winners include the Rivian R1T, Genesis G90, and Lexus RX. The Toyota Tundra is the only full-size pickup to score the highest rating, giving it quite an advantage against its rivals.


The IIHS had to adopt various tests due to ongoing trends in the automotive industry. Its standard side crash test's energy had to be ramped up by 82%, most likely due to the weight of the average car going up significantly. As we know, EVs are pretty heavy, even forcing testing stations to reevaluate their equipment before aiming an elephant like the Hummer EV at it.

There's also more pressure on advanced driving assistance systems, as they must now perform a nighttime vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test. The IIHS is also taking a firmer stance on headlights. Previously, a car received a plus rating if at least one model came standard with lights that received "Acceptable" or "Good" ratings. Now, all models in the range need decent headlights to receive the coveted award.

As always, a car must score Good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, and original moderate overlap front tests.


"The number of winners is smaller this year because we're challenging automakers to build on the safety gains they've already achieved," said IIHS President David Harkey. "These models are true standouts in both crashworthiness and crash prevention."

According to the IIHS, it's not done yet. Even stricter measures will be implemented in 2024, forcing manufacturers to further up their game. "US traffic fatalities hit a 20-year high in the first half of 2022, in part due to a steady climb in pedestrian crashes," Harkey said. "Safer vehicles can be an important part of the solution, even though reversing the trend will also take a concerted effort from policymakers and other stakeholders."

By changing the criteria, the IIHS effectively forces manufacturers to do better to receive these coveted awards, which all responsible shoppers should look at before buying a car. The nighttime testing is especially relevant, as an IIHS study in 2022 found that ADAS systems are basically useless in the dark.


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