Crash Avoidance Key To This New IIHS List of Most Safe Vehicles for 2017

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Just 38 US models earn the industries highest safety rating. For 44 more it is close, but no cigar.

Ford Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection Technology, available new technology from Ford is designed to reduce the severity of and, in some cases, even eliminate frontal collisions involving pedestrians. Debuting on the 2015 Ford Mondeo in Europe, the system provides a collision warning to the driver and, if the driver does not respond in time, can automatically apply the vehicle brakes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts the most rigorous, cutting edge safety testing of US market automobiles. One reason the group has earned the respect of industry experts is that it is not afraid to change its rankings system and make it harder year after year for automakers to earn the top designation, called Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+).

This year, the IIHS moves the bar again, including headlight ratings as a part of its rating methodology.

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This new challenge has resulted in only 38 models earning the TSP+ rating among approximately 225 total models from all manufacturers. This year, nearly a quarter of the overall top models come from one automaker – Toyota.  Honda also scores well with five models that earn the top scores.

Forward collision prevention with automatic braking is now required to earn a top safety score. The systems need to be advanced to be included as well. Simple systems that alert a driver are no longer enough. These systems have been proven in real-world studies of car models with and without the system to reduce crashes by 40%.

One way Toyota has taken the lead in safety is by rolling out standard forward collision prevention on its new models. Automakers have all agreed to make this important system standard by 2022, but Toyota isn’t waiting, and most of the brand’s top-selling models like Corolla and RAV4 now come with the system on every trim level.

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The IIHS gave automakers advanced notice that Acceptable or Good headlight ratings would be required for 2017. Still, some automakers made the mistake of not including their best headlights on trims that don’t offer forward collision prevention. The Hyundai Tucson, for example, will only sell a shopper its poor-rated headlights with forward collision prevention. Tucson’s trim with Acceptable headlights cannot come with the forward collision system.

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The IIHS allows automakers to make improvements as the year goes on. Newly introduced models also will be added to this 2017 list of 38 models if they earn top scores. The IIHS list is not static, so check the group’s site when you shop to see how the model you are considering did on its most up-to-date test.

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John Goreham

John Goreham