Automotive crash testing just got harder in 2024—which OEMs did well?

Enlarge / The Tesla Model Y has earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2024.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has toughened up the tests required to earn one of its coveted Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ awards. The institute has spent the past 65 years investigating automobile safety and putting pressure on manufacturers to concentrate more on implementing safety measures, and with this year’s revision, it wants to see better protection for backseat passengers and better pedestrian detection, among other requirements.

IIHS started crash-testing new vehicles at its facility in Virginia in 1995 after noticing that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s own tests did not best reflect the kinds of crashes happening on American roads. It continues to add new tests or adjust existing ones, in recent years adding a rollover protection test and increasing the speed of the side crash test.

For 2024, a vehicle has to earn either an acceptable or good rating in the moderate front overlap test to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award, and the test now includes a dummy behind the driver.

Automakers have to protect more than just the driver if they want to get the best score.
Enlarge / Automakers have to protect more than just the driver if they want to get the best score.


Achieving either a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick award also requires a good rating at the tougher side-crash test—previously, an acceptable rating also qualified for either award.

IIHS has changed its test for pedestrian detection and crash prevention; previously, it split day and night performance into two tests, but now, either award will require a vehicle to achieve an acceptable or good rating here.

For the small overlap test, IIHS is now combining the results of both driver- and passenger-side tests, with the result being whichever of the two performed worse. A good rating is necessary for either the Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick awards.

And OEMs have an incentive to put the good headlights on all their models now, as each trim level must have a good or acceptable rating on the headlight test to qualify for an award.

The Hyundai Ioniq 6 also scored a Top Safety Pick+ award for 2024.
Enlarge / The Hyundai Ioniq 6 also scored a Top Safety Pick+ award for 2024.


“We followed the tougher requirements we introduced last year with another major update to the award criteria in 2024,” said IIHS President David Harkey. “This year’s winners are true standouts, offering the highest level of protection for both vehicle occupants and other vulnerable road users.”

“There’s still progress to be made in the protection that vehicles provide for their occupants, as the introduction of the updated moderate overlap test shows,” Harkey said. But many of the biggest gains of the future will come from automakers and policymakers, along with all of us as car buyers and drivers, taking steps to protect everyone on the road, not just our own families.

So far, 71 models have qualified for awards, 22 earning Top Safety Pick+ and the remaining 49 earning Top Safety Pick. Acura, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, and Genesis dominate the Top Safety Pick+ list, but the Tesla Model Y makes it on there, too. You can find the full list of winners at IIHS.

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