Thirty car and truck models rose to meet 2019’s higher safety standards as judged by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Besides the 30 winners of the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award, 27 vehicles won lesser Top Safety Pick honors.

More Models Earning Automotive Lab’s Top Distinction

Thirty new car and truck models hitting showroom floors are showing that the word “Safety” is a relative term. There’s Unsafe, Safe, and Safer, and then there are 2019-year cars and trucks judged Safest.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the prominent, independent auto safety testing lab, known for its annual “Top Safety Pick” new car ratings, recently announced its latest picks for the safest new vehicles, and the ranks of the safe cars and trucks are swelling.

The 30 jackpot winners earned the coveted “Top Safety Pick+” designation, up from the 21 models that met that IIHS elevated standard in 2018. This year, 27 models scored the lesser “Top Safety Pick” (without the +), compared to 47 in 2018.

Here’s What’s Extra With a “Plus” Mark

Each of the 57 vehicle models that have won a safety award had to meet certain bedrock standards for crashworthiness and an advanced or superior automatic braking system for preventing front-end crashes, and adequate headlights.

The “Plus” winners had to meet higher standards: good-rated protection for passengers in front-fender auto accidents and have good-rated available headlights.

IIHS launched the Top Safety Pick rankings in 2006 to help buyers find the cars and trucks with superior safety characteristics and to encourage manufacturers to give safety a higher priority. The institute added the Plus distinction in 2013 and has tightened or raised the standards each year since. IIHS President David Harkey said:

“We challenged manufacturers to provide the best possible protection… Fifteen brands hit all the marks to give consumers shopping for a new car a wide variety of 2019 models to consider.”

Safety Features Sometimes Pricey Options

Most of the award winners wouldn’t qualify if they were just the baseline models of those cars and trucks because the improved safety features, such as good headlights and collision-avoidance systems, come with high-end options packages, the safety lab says. Only 31 of the 57 winners have the crash-avoidance systems as a standard feature.

However, according to the lab, most manufacturers are edging toward greater safety for all. After some nudging by IIHS and the U.S. Department of Transportation, 20 carmakers have promised to make automatic braking systems standard equipment by 2022.

In coming years, IIHS will begin adding requirements to increase safety for pedestrians, USA Today’s Nathan Bomey reported. The institute would measure how well auto-braking systems detect pedestrians, which has become a growing concern in Colorado and the rest of the country.

By Dec. 17, 2018, 86 pedestrians were reported to have died that year from auto accidents on Colorado streets, roads, and highways, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. That’s only a slight shift from the final 2017 count, 92 pedestrian deaths.

And the Safety Winners Are…

Most of the Top Safety Pick+ winners are classified as cars or SUVs, while micro-cars, mini-cars, pickup trucks, and minivans are missing.

All types except micro-cars and pickup trucks were represented among the winners of the lesser award. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Japanese carmaker Subaru was the biggest winner as seven of its models won Top Safety Pick+ awards: the Ascent, Crosstrek, Legacy, Outback, WRX, and the Impreza sedan and wagon. The Subaru Forester missed the top mark because its headlights were rated only acceptable, not good.
  • Hyundai Motors, the owner of the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands, took a slew of accolades. Hyundai: four Top Safety Pick+ and six Top Safety Pick awards. Kia: five plusses and three of the lesser awards. The Genesis luxury brand won three of the top honors.
  • Mercedes-Benz won three Top Safety Pick+ awards and one in the next level.
  • Toyota won two Top Safety Pick+ awards and two of the lesser prizes, while its Lexus brand won one top honor.
  • BMW earned two of the top awards and one of the lesser prizes.
  • Honda won one top honor and four of the lesser honors. Honda’s Acura brand won one top honor for its RDX sports utility vehicle.
  • Mazda earned one top honor and two in the next tier.

Big Vehicles Have Lighting Drawback

The main reason there was a lack of SUVs and pickups on the list was their headlight performance, Bomey reported. Because the big vehicles sit higher than other passenger cars their headlights don’t illuminate the road as well and create glare.

IIHS’ work is not done, however. The safety lab is still testing 2019 models and will add to the winner lists as results are compiled.

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