When doing automotive our reviews, crash test data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is often quoted. The reasons why are as important as the data itself.
To start with, our reviews here on TestDrivenTV are not only meant to entertain but to give the best third-party opinion and appraisal of vehicles we test or report on. Most viewers and readers are shopping for a new car and need this information.
When looking at a new car, not only are features, performance, utility, style and value major players but so is safety. And since we cannot crash test the cars we test, we seek out trustworthy and relevant data we can share.
There are two sources we can gain safety data from. These are both the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the aforementioned IIHS. While the government safety crash tests are adequate, we most often refer to the IIHS safety ratings because it is more detailed and we feel more relevant for a number of key reasons.
Let’s start with who the IIHS is. They are an independent non-profit group created by and funded by the insurance companies who do so in order to gain detailed cost analysis on car crashes. This is what it costs to fix a car and more importantly, fix people.
The most expensive costs in car crashes are most often injuries and fatalities, thus the insurance industry needed a better way to measure their risk than the government crash testing. By crashing each new models of cars in a variety of ways with high-tech dummies they can determine several injury data scenarios.
In so doing they can determine which cars perform better and why. So while this infinite and detailed crash data is at its core developed for the cost cutting profit motive of insurance companies, it has a major benefit to the consumer.
First we get far more detailed crash testing and analysis than the government is tasked or motivated to do. No disrespect to our hard working government employees, but they don’t have skin in the game, the insurance companies do.
Second, the IIHS created the consumer side of their data, their crash test rating system. They provide their data freely to consumers through their website complete with video, photos and official ratings we can use when comparing new models.
They have their official “Top Safety Pick” designations where a high bar is set to earn the title. A manufacturer who embraces safety and even works to assure their cars pass the IIHS tests can proudly wear the banner.
This gets us to the point. Because the IIHS exists and pushes the envelope with car safety testing by routinely creating new tests, raising the bar for what they consider safe, the car companies have come to follow their lead.
What that means to us is a force for good in the capitalistic model. Though born of profit motive, the IIHS creates a balancing effect for our better safety on the road by sometimes guilting and other times motivating car companies to build safer cars.