Skip to main content

Car Sense

The Science of Road Safety at the IIHS

Behind the Scenes: IIHS Vehicle Research Center

From the driver’s seat settings to your favorite radio station, your car is your safe haven on the road. In this video we go behind the scenes at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to check out their inspection process. Leave it to ERIE to customize your auto insurance to make sure you are protected once you choose the vehicle that is right for you.
Watch the video

If you’ve gone car shopping lately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) might sound familiar –it’s the organization behind the coveted Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick + ratings given to the safest models on the road.

Before those ratings are given out, a lot has to happen behind the scenes. For example: Did you know the IIHS crashes 50 to 70 brand-new vehicles each year to test how well they tolerate a handful of different collision scenarios? (Watch the video for an inside look at the IIHS’ state-of-the-art Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia.)

Because of the IIHS, the roads – and the vehicles travelling on them – are getting measurably safer each year. But crash tests are just the beginning. Here are five surprising things you might not know about the IIHS:

  1. They’ve been around since 1959. For perspective: That’s the same year the standard three-point seat belt was invented… so, auto safety still had a long way to go.  The IIHS started out by supporting highway safety efforts led by others, but a decade later, it evolved into the independent research organization it is today. Since then, the IIHS has been a leader in determining what works – and what doesn’t – to prevent crashes and minimize injuries in crashes that do occur.
  2. They’re driven by science and data. Led by some of the brightest and well-published researchers in the auto industry, IIHS tests are conducted at some of the best equipped labs in the world, apart from the manufacturers’ grounds themselves.

    The institute’s affiliate organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), shares and supports the mission of the IIHS by collecting, analyzing and publishing insurance loss data. (That’s the data ERIE referred to in 2013 when we uncovered that being “lost in thought” is the No. 1 driving distraction involved in fatal car crashes.) In fact, the HLDI houses the largest repository of insurance loss statistics in the world.

    Check out the interactive HLDI composite to see how your car, SUV or motorcycle compares in both the frequency of insurance claims and the average loss per claim.
  3. Crash tests are only a portion of what they do. Although they’re most known for vehicle research, the IIHS also researches other effects on highway safety: human factors, like alcohol-impaired driving, truck driver fatigue and seat belt use; and physical environments, like roadway designs and roadside hazards.
  4. They’ve been behind some of the biggest innovations in auto safety. Today’s commonplace safety features like bumpers, airbags and headrests weren’t always standard issue in cars. The IIHS helped champion them and earn public support by backing up their effectiveness with hard data. You can also thank the IIHS for longer yellow lights – their research in 1979 on signal timing prompted traffic engineers to adjust the timing to reduce dangerous red light runners.
  5. They’re wholly funded by auto insurers and insurance associations.
    Erie Insurance is proud to support the IIHS/HLDI and their important mission to make the nation’s roads safer. ERIE’s senior vice president of personal lines, Doug Smith, also serves on their board of directors.

As auto technology progresses, their research is more important than ever. IIHS vehicle testing has evolved from looking at things that protect motorists in the event of a crash, to testing systems like forward collision avoidance and autobrake that can prevent a crash from happening in the first place.

From an era before seatbelts to today’s reality of self-driving cars, one thing isn’t changing: the IIHS remains steady as one of the most respected names in auto safety.

And for all of us on the road, that’s a great thing.


These crash testers are no dummies. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is driving change to create safer vehicles on the nation’s roads. /blog/science-of-road-safety Erie Insurance https://www.erieinsurance.com/-/media/images/erieinsurance/erieinsurancelogo.png

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.


The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of December 2015 and may be changed at any time. 


Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 


The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia, New York and Wisconsin.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 


Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.


Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.