Based on real-world crashes
The new test specifications represent years of analysis of real-world crash results. Even in 2009 when the IIHS looked at vehicles with a ‘good’ rating for frontal crash protection, it found that small-overlap situations accounted for almost a quarter of frontal crashes with serious or fatal injury. And frontal crashes still account for more than a quarter of fatalities.
“Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year,” said IIHS president Adrian Lund. “Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities."
Test details for the IIHS hadn’t changed since 2010, when a new roof strength test was introduced. The IIHS assigns ratings of ‘good,’ ‘acceptable,’ marginal,’ or ‘poor’ to vehicles in each category, based on the likelihood of occupant injury. Over the past several years, an overwhelming number of vehicles have received all ‘good’ ratings—and the Top Safety Pick designation—making it hard to parse the best from the merely good.
Easier to separate the top performers
The IIHS has said that it will keep its existing Top Safety Pick criteria for the 2013 model year, although it might tighten them to include the new test next year—and in the meantime it will later in the year announce a higher award level to draw attention to the few exceptional models (like the S60 and TL) that do well on the new test, too.
“We expect this test will drive significant improvements in how vehicles protect people in frontal crashes,” commented IIHS spokesman Russ Rader, with the release of the test information.
The federal government’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) was started by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1978, while the IIHS started its crash-test program in 1995. This corresponds with a downward trend in U.S. traffic fatalities to their 2010 level of 32,885; fewer in the U.S. have died in traffic accidents than the year prior in all but two years since 1995.
Expect new IIHS results for a set of the latest mid-size sedans—including the new 2013 Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry—to be released soon. And in the meantime, take a look at the video below summarizing the new test, and you can browse the first set of results at the IIHS site.
Likewise, you can expect us to take these new ratings into account, as we help you make the best vehicle picks, in the Safety pages of The Car Connection’s full reviews.