The procedure the IIHS uses to rate rear-crash protection follows two separate steps. First, engineers take precise measurements of each vehicle’s head restraint system for a math-based evaluation of potential safety protection. Vehicles that get “good” or “acceptable” ratings in this area are then put to the test in impacts that mimic a rear-end collision at 20 mph. Another crash-test dummy does its part, too, providing the IIHS with data regarding how crash forces could affect a person’s neck.
The IIHS previously required Top Safety Picks to have electronic stability control, but since the government recently mandated that all new vehicles from the 2012 model year forward need to have this as standard equipment, it’s now a moot point.
Speaking of which, the first batch of 2012 Top Safety Picks was recently revealed, with 115 different vehicles earning the recognition by achieving top scores in all four crash-test evaluations; 18 are new to the list, with the remainder being carryover winners from 2011 that did not get any significant changes for the 2012 model year.
The automakers with the most awardees:
Toyota (including Scion and Lexus), 15 winners
GM (including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC), 14 winners
Volkswagen (including Audi), 13 winners
Ford (including Lincoln), 12 winners
Honda (including Acura) 12 winners
Two more important caveats: the IIHS Top Safety Picks aren’t comparable across different vehicle classes; that is, a Top Safety Pick in the subcompact segment is not going to protect occupants to the same degree as a Top Safety Pick from the full-size pickup category. Also, the Institute will continue to test more 2012 vehicles on a rolling basis throughout the next year, updating its list of Top Safety Picks along the way.
And speaking of which, here’s that complete list of the 2012 IIHS Top Safety Picks, as broken down into the Institute’s different vehicle classes: