Automotive Mazda

Published on March 3rd, 2024 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Mazda Earns 6 Awards Total, 5 Of Which Are TOP SAFETY PICK+

Mazda is one standout in a new list of 2024’s safest vehicles

The brand earns six awards total, five of which are TOP SAFETY PICK+. Mazda earns the most TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards of any single brand, with five, as well as one TOP SAFETY PICK.

By class, small SUVs, midsize SUVs and midsize luxury SUVs are tied for the most TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards, with five each. Midsize luxury SUVs, which qualify for an additional 12 TOP SAFETY PICK awards, earn the most awards overall. Relatively few cars, pickups and MPVs qualify for either award.

“The high number of SUVs that earn awards probably reflects the dominance of those vehicles in the U.S. market,” said Harkey. “But it’s disappointing that only four pickups and four midsize cars earn awards, considering the popularity of those classes.”

The changes to the 2024 award criteria are designed to push automakers like Mazda to pursue higher levels of safety.

IIHS introduced the original moderate overlap front test in 1995. At the time, most vehicles earned ratings of poor or marginal. For the past decade, virtually every vehicle tested has earned a good rating thanks to stronger vehicle structures, the introduction of front and side-curtain airbags and a series of improvements in seat belt technology.

That represents a big win for safety. An analysis of 14 years’ worth of crash data involving IIHS-rated vehicles shows that a driver of a model rated good in the original moderate overlap test is 46 percent less likely to die in a head-on crash with a similar vehicle, compared with a driver of a model rated poor.

IIHS introduced the updated test to encourage similar advancements in the back seat. Once, second-row occupants were substantially safer than those seated in the front because of the greater distance between them and the impact in a frontal crash.

In today’s vehicles, though, there is barely any deformation of the occupant compartment in the moderate overlap test. In addition, automakers have added airbags and advanced seat belts in the front seats but not often in the rear. As a result, in vehicles from model year 2007 onward, the risk of a fatal injury is higher for belted occupants in the rear seat than in the front.

To spur automakers to address that gap, the updated test includes an additional dummy positioned in the second row behind the driver and utilizes new metrics that focus on the injuries most frequently seen in rear-seat occupants. Many automakers have made substantial progress since the first group of ratings was released in December 2022.

Making an acceptable or good rating a requirement for TOP SAFETY PICK+ is the next step in accelerating those improvements.

The tougher standards for pedestrian front crash prevention systems are grounded in similar progress. In 2019, when IIHS launched the daytime vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluation, only 21 percent of the vehicles tested earned the highest rating of superior, while 44 percent of new models didn’t even offer the technology.

By 2023, 59 percent of vehicles earned superior ratings in the daytime test, and 40 percent also earned superior ratings in the nighttime evaluation, which was introduced a year earlier.

An advanced or superior rating in the daytime test was required for a 2023 TOP SAFETY PICK award, and an advanced or superior rating in the nighttime test was necessary to earn the “plus.” For 2024, IIHS has combined the two tests into a single evaluation, making nighttime performance essential for either award.

The superior/advanced/basic/no credit scale has been replaced by the good/acceptable/marginal/poor scale used for other IIHS evaluations. This subtle change recognizes that technology that detects and brakes for pedestrians should be expected on all vehicles.

Pedestrians represent an increasingly large share of crash deaths, and pedestrian fatalities are currently at their highest level since the early 1980s. Most pedestrian crashes occur during the day, when there are more people on the roads, but three-quarters of fatal pedestrian crashes happen at night.

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