With new tougher standards in place for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's coveted "2018 Top Pick Plus" rating, just 15 vehicles earned the distinction compared with 38 for 2017.
This year the criteria proved a bit more hard to meet. In order to qualify, model-year 2018 vehicles now need to have good-rated headlights and get a good or acceptable rating in IIHS' newest evaluation, the passenger-side small overlap front crash test.
Scoring an acceptable rating for headlight visibility is enough for getting on the Top Safety Pick list but no longer for earning the coveted TPS+ award, which now requires a good rating unlike past year. Six out of seven in Subaru's 2018 lineup earned the award with the Impreza, Legacy, Outback, and WRX netting Top Safety Pick+ when outfitted with optional front-crash prevention and specific headlights.
Preventing a crash with auto braking is also now part of the IIHS's safety tests. The latest awards are the first to factor in a passenger-side crash test.
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"Drivers expect that their passengers, who are often family, will be protected just as well as they are", says IIHS President Adrian Lund.
The 2018 Toyota Camry was one of only 15 vehicles to meet the criteria for the TPS+ award, while six other Toyota models and four Lexus models qualified for the regular TPS award, including the Toyota Avalon, Corolla, Prius, Prius Prime, RAV4, and Highlander. According to Lund, this test was added when it became clear to the institute that some manufacturers weren't paying as much attention to passenger safety as much as they were to driver safety.
"The improvements in occupant protection have been incredible over the past decades", he said in a statement.
Rather than design elements, Lund said headlights should be treated as safety features to help avoid a crash at night. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers.