What’s it mean to be a Top Safety Pick?

The Honda Odyssey is a 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick, but what exactly does that mean? Let’s dive a little deeper into the IIHS safety rating system to see what it takes to be a Top Safety Pick. 

The IIHS uses six separate tests to evaluate a vehicle’s crashworthiness. To qualify for a Top Safety Pick, the IIHS states “a vehicle must earn good ratings in the driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also must earn an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable or good headlight rating.” Here we break down what’s involved in each test, beginning with the frontal crash tests. 

Frontal crashes are the most common types of crashes that result in fatalities. The IIHS conducts three separate tests to test for frontal crashworthiness. 

Moderate overlap frontal test
This test is designed to simulate a crash between two vehicles of the same weight, traveling at the same speed. At 40 mph a vehicle with an average-sized dummy in the driver’s seat is driven into a 2 foot tall aluminum barrier with 40% of the total vehicle width striking the barrier on the driver’s side.

Driver-side small overlap frontal test
This test is designed to simulate a crash that occurs when the front left corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. For this test, a vehicle with an average-sized dummy in the driver’s seat is driven 40 mph into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier with 25% of the total vehicle width striking the barrier on the driver’s side. 

Passenger-side small overlap frontal test
This test is just like the driver-side test, except the vehicle overlaps the barrier on the passenger side to account for passenger-side impact, and instead of having only one dummy in the vehicle, there are two — one driver and one passenger.

Engineers then use three factors to gauge a vehicle’s frontal crash ratings: structural performance, injury measures and dummy movement. 

Next up, comes side testing. About a quarter of US passenger occupant deaths occur in side crashes. Side airbags and stronger vehicle structures help reduce the risk of passenger fatalities and injuries by dispersing the impact of a crash over a larger area of the occupant’s body and by preventing an occupant from colliding with objects inside and outside of the vehicle.

Side crash test
For this test a 3,300-lb SUV-like barrier hits the driver’s side vehicle at 31mph. Inside the vehicle are two smaller-sized dummies, one to simulate a small woman (driver) and another to simulate the size of a 12-year old child (backseat passenger). The reason for using smaller-sized dummies is because shorter drivers have a greater chance of having their heads come into contact with the front-end of a striking vehicle. 

Engineers then use three factors to gauge a vehicle’s side crash rating: driver and passenger injury measures, head protection and structural performance.

Then engineers test for roof strength. Strong roofs are imperative in reducing the risk of injury in a rollover collision. Not only do they protect occupants by maintaining an occupant’s survival space in the event of a rollover, they also help prevent occupants — especially unbuckled ones — from being ejected from the windows, windshield or doors.

Roof strength test
A roof’s strength is tested by pushing a metal plate against one side of the roof at a slow but constant speed. A good rating requires a strength-to-weight ratio of at least 4, which means a roof must be able to withstand a force of at least 4x the vehicle’s weight before the plate crushes the roof by 5 inches. To see what a difference good roof strength makes, check out this video comparing a a vehicle with a good roof strength rating to one with a poor rating.

Engineers then test for head restraint. Whiplash injuries are the most frequently reported injuries on US auto insurance claims and occur most often in rear-end collisions; however, effective head restraints can help prevent them.

Head restraints test
For this test a dummy with a realistic spine is put in a sled and then moved to simulate a rear impact. Effectiveness relies on good head restraint geometry, which essentially means for head restraint to work it must be behind and close to the back of an occupant’s head, if it is not, then whiplash can occur. To learn more about restraint geometry and the science behind this test, visit the IIHS safety ratings page.

You can view the full IIHS vehicle report for the 2018 Honda Odyssey to see its crashworthiness results. If you have any questions about the Honda Odyssey’s Top Safety Rating or would like to take a Honda Odyssey out for a test drive, then just stop by our Tracy Honda dealership. We’d be happy to sit down with you and explain the Honda Odyssey’s innovative safety features in greater detail.