The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Thursday announced that 39 vehicles have qualified for its 2014 safety designations, Top Safety Pick+ and Top Safety Pick.
The list has far fewer than the 130 vehicles that earned a top safety designation a year ago for 2013. The institute's standards are stricter this year, requiring for the first time "good" or "acceptable" results on a test that measures what would happen if a vehicle clipped another car in a head-on crash or clipped a telephone pole.
The institute's top safety designation used to be based on the risk of serious injury, as measured on crash-test dummies, during four tests:
-- A head-on collision of the vehicle's entire front end into a honeycombed metal barrier. Separately, a head-on collision in which the vehicle is positioned left or right so that only 40 percent of the front end hits the barrier.
-- A side-impact collision.
-- A rollover.
-- A rear-end collision.
Starting in 2012, the institute started conducting a fifth test: measuring the risk of injury during "small overlap" crashes, which is a head-on collision involving only 25 percent of the vehicle's front end into a crash test barrier.
"So, it's basically the front left corner [or front right corner] of the vehicle is hitting the barrier," said institute spokesman Russ Rader.
Last year, vehicles that earned the premium safety designation -- Top Safety Pick+ -- had to get a "good" or "acceptable" rating in the small-overlap test as well as good ratings in the four traditional tests. This year, for the 2014 list, a good or acceptable rating on the small-overlap test was required for the Top Safety Pick designation.
An additional measure was required for the 2014 Top Safety Pick+ : a front crash prevention system, ranging from basic warning systems to an autobrake, which actually stops the car short of the collision. Subaru's EyeSight is an example of an autobrake system, and examples of warning systems are those available in a Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and Honda/Acura vehicles.
"We know that these front crash prevention systems are reducing crashes in real world based on our insurance claim studies," Rader said.
"Forward collision warning reduces property damage liability claims by about 7 percent, and adding autobrake doubles the effect. And this is huge because these features are only going to get better and more effective over time."
Each year in the U.S., there are about 5 million car crashes and about one-third are rear-end crashes, when a driver in traffic hits the vehicle in front of him.
"We know that the systems are working in the real world and that's why we've added them to the test criteria," Rader said. "We want to tell consumers which of these systems are worth the money, and we want to encourage auto makers to make them more available."
Vehicles that earned the 2014 Top Safety Pick+ designation are: Honda Civic 4-door; Mazda 3 built after Oct. 2013; Toyota Prius built after Nov. 2013; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord 2-door; Honda Accord 4-door; Mazda 6; Subaru Legacy; Subaru Outback; Infiniti Q50; Lincoln MKZ; Volvo S80; Mazda CX-5 built after Oct. 2013; Mitsubishi Outlander; Subaru Forester; Toyota Highlander; Acura MDX; Mercedes-Benz M-Class built after Aug. 2013; Volvo XC60; Honda Odyssey.
Vehicles that earned the 2014 Top Safety Pick designation are: Chevrolet Spark; Dodge Dart; Ford Focus; Honda Civic 2-door; Hyundai Elantra; Scion tC; Subaru Impreza; Subaru XV Crosstrek; Chrysler 200 4-door; Dodge Avenger; Kia Optima; Nissan Altima; Toyota Camry built after Nov. 2013; Volkswagen Passat; Acura TL; Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; Volvo XC90.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based in Arlington, Va., is an nonprofit organization funded by insurance companies that researches deaths, injuries and property damage resulting from car crashes.
(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Insurance Institute Names 39 Top Safety Vehicles
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