There are many acronyms associated with the automotive industry, some of which are more common and well-known than others. Some of these associations provide services to drivers, like AAA, while some, like IIHS, provide a different type of service altogether. Many people have heard of IIHS, but few people outside of the industry are familiar with exactly what this company does to assist with the safety issues that can plague many newly built vehicles. When it comes to car, no one knows the ins and outs quite like IIHS, and they’ve made it their business to ensure that their knowledge becomes our knowledge.
IIHS, or The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was founded in 1959. Behind the scenes of the foundation were three insurance groups that accounted for nearly all of the auto insurance in the United States. When they first began, their sole mission was to provide a backing for safety projects on U.S. Highways. However, the scope of this mission proved to be too narrow, and they rebranded themselves as a foundation dedicated to ensuring the safety of drivers on the highways of America. Through dedicated research, IIHS sought to reduce the amount of collisions and fatalities that took place.
IIHS was easily able to transition from an organization with one singular focus; prevention of highway accidents, to their current functioning. The dedicated team of researchers took on the task of using science to figure out how they could put into effect, a plan to increase the safety of U.S. Highways, while at the same time figuring out what was causing traffic accidents and unfolding a multifaceted plan as to how to reduce the amount. They, essentially, used detailed analysis to spell out what was going wrong on the highways, and provided answers as to how it could be fixed.
They started by studying how environmental factors could be influencing the safety of highway driving. This included determining if the highway design itself was flawed versus whether or not the environmental impact could be diverted in any way. IIHS also chose to address the potential human element involved in highway accidents, such as alcohol related collisions, inexperienced drivers, or even the importance of seat belt usage. They quickly discovered, however, that there was a third element that could be lending to more traffic accidents; a reason that was neither driver or environmentally related. How many accidents were the fault of the vehicles that were involved?
This questioning led to the founding of the VRC, or the Vehicle Research Center. This center was opened in 1992, and has led to the IIHS being what it is today. The center was dedicated to studying what could go wrong in cars, what was continually proving to be a common issue, and how it could be prevented. They began conducting crash tests that analyzed the road-worthiness of specific vehicles should they be involved in a collision. Basically, they used the VRC to find the weakest points of every model of vehicles on the highway with the intention of reporting this data in an effort to make the changes necessary to correct the issues.
The crash tests conducted by IIHS at the VRC had shocking results when the testing first began. Very few vehicles faired very well, and these dismal findings have allowed for the automotive industry to strive for something better. Many of the cars of the road today pass the tests with flying colors, some of which are then named IIHS Top Safety Picks. This designation signifies that these specific vehicles have outperformed many of the vehicles in their class in nearly all of the test categories. The results are made available to the general public, and no driver should consider the purchase of a vehicle without being well-informed about its standing with the IIHS.
For nearly sixty years, the IIHS has committed themselves to reducing the amount of fatalities on the highways of America. Since their founding, the amount of traffic accidents has decreased dramatically, and continues to decline, in spite of the recent human element of texting and driving. They continue to study the human causes of collisions as well as the potential environmental causes, but focus the majority of their attention on the safety of the vehicles being offered to consumers. Without the IIHS, there would be, inarguably, more fatalities on the roads. Both drivers and manufacturers owe this organization a debt of gratitude.