Vehicles must have 'good' or 'acceptable' headlights across the entire lineup to qualify.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced more stringent qualification criteria for the 2020 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus awards.
Headlights are a focal point in the 2020 awards, requiring 'good' or 'acceptable' performance from all available headlights on a particular model to receive a TSP+ award. For 2019, models could still receive TSP+ if at least one configuration had higher-rated lighting, even if the base model was rated 'poor' or 'marginal.'
The IIHS says only three headlight systems from the 2016 model year earned a good rating out of 224 evaluated for the evaluation's first year. Performance has subsequently improved, with 68 deemed good and 103 acceptable out of 465 systems tested for the 2019 model year.
"However, many of those good- or acceptable-rated headlights are available only as part of optional packages or on higher trim levels," the announcement notes. "Consumers need to pay special attention if they want to buy a vehicle equipped with them."
The TSP+ award will also require models to be available with front-crash prevention that earns an 'advanced' rating in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations, while good crashworthiness marks must be earned across-the-board including the relatively new passenger-side small-overlap scenario that has caused trouble for some models since it was implemented in 2017.
"We hope these changes will encourage automakers to stop equipping vehicles with inferior headlights and speed the adoption of technology that can help protect pedestrians," says IIHS research chief David Zuby.