The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has raised the bar for its Top Safety Pick awards for 2020. - Photo courtesy of IIHS.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has raised the bar for its Top Safety Pick awards for 2020.

Photo courtesy of IIHS.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is implementing stricter standards in 2020 for vehicles to earn its Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ awards.

To capture the highest plus status in 2020, vehicles will need good or acceptable headlights to be standard equipment as opposed to the current criteria of a good rating, be it on standard or optional headlights.

In order to earn a Top Safety Pick+ or a Top Safety Pick award, front crash prevention that earns at least an advanced rating in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations must be available. Under the current criteria, only the vehicle-to-vehicle rating is required.

The awards will also require good crashworthiness ratings in six rigorous tests including the passenger-side small overlap front test. For 2019, an acceptable rating in the passenger-side test was sufficient for a vehicle to qualify for the Top Safety Pick award.

The goal of the changes in the evaluation process is to stop manufacturers from equipping vehciles with inferior headlights and also to speed the adoption of technology that helps protect pedestrians.

When IIHS launched its headlight ratings in 2016, only three out of 224 evaluated earned a good rating. In 2019, 68 out of 465 systems evaluated were rated good, and 103 were rated acceptable.

The concern, notes IIHS, is that while things have improved, far too many of the good- or acceptable-rated headlights are available only as part of optional packages or on higher trim levels.

The new 2020 criteria for earning the highest safety award directly addresses this problem.

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