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People use the term IIHS Top Safety Pick to describe safe vehicles. These days, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an organization that helps make cars and roads safer. The IIHS issues the Top Safety Pick and Safety Pick Plus awards to new cars, trucks, and SUVs that perform well in crashworthiness tests. What do these tests consist of?

What is required for a car to be a top IIHS Top Safety Pick?

The IIHS Top Safety Pick award
Freeway construction along the 5 freeway as seen from the Los Alisos Boulevard | Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

You have probably heard the term IIHS Top Safety Pick (TSP) or Top Safety Pick Plus (TSP+). The organization gives awards to safe vehicles that perform well in various tests. From year to year, the test changes to account for new technology and new cars.

“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage from motor vehicle crashes through research and evaluation and through education of consumers, policymakers and safety professionals.”


In 2022, the IIHS Top Safety Pick criteria received an update. There are six crashworthiness tests that vehicles have to earn a rating of “good” to qualify. The scoring goes from good, acceptable, marginal, to poor. Vehicles must earn good ratings in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests. The first tests are the small overlap front: driver-side, small overlap front: passenger-side. Followed by the moderate overlap front, side: original test, roof strength, and head restraints/seats tests.

More on the IIHS Top Safety Pick and TSP+ awards for 2022

Vehicles must get an advanced or superior rating for available front crash prevention. That applies to both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations. In addition, acceptable or good scores on the standard headlights.

When it comes down to it, the only difference between the IIHS Top Safety Pick and TSP+ awards is the headlights. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the TSP distinction to a vehicle with acceptable or good headlights available as an option. The TSP+ award requires these acceptable or good headlights to come standard.

For 2022, an updated crash test has been tripping up vehicles. The 2022 Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade received an overall “marginal” score on the side: updated test. This eliminated both SUVs from qualifying for the TSP+ award. Similarly, the 2022 Jeep Wrangler flipped over during the front small-overlap test. Subsequently, this eliminated the Jeep from either award.

Vehicles are divided up into smaller groups for more accurate testing

The IIHS divides vehicles into the usual categories: cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles. Each category is then further divided into small, compact, midsize, large, and minivan categories.

The IIHS has given these awards since 2006 for the TSP award and in 2013 for the TSP+ award. The organization says it divides cars into categories to ensure their safety, regardless of size. Larger SUVs or trucks will offer more protection than small cars in many cases. Fewer vehicles might qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick or TSP+ award this year as the crashworthiness tests are more stringent than ever.

Buyers can search the IIHS website to find more awards or to search a specific make and model for awards. The organization is continuing testing on 2022 vehicles and will move on to 2023 vehicles after that. If your new car, truck, or SUV hasn’t been tested yet, check back in a month or two. In conclusion, testing is ongoing and videos are uploaded almost daily on the official YouTube channel.


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