These 15 vehicles are IIHS' top safety picks for 2018

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M - For model-year 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety strengthened its Top Safety Pick Plus award requirements - and just 15 vehicles qualified for the award during the agency's most recent round of testing.

Another 47 vehicles earned the next-tier Top Safety Pick award with Toyota producing the most vehicles on that list, followed by Hyundai with nine.

Over the last decade, vehicle safety has improved dramatically as automakers recognize that safety is a big selling point. Mercedes Benz, Subaru, Toyota and Ford also had models listed as top safety picks. As a whole, foreign models edged out American models for safety.

The institute rates front crash prevention by conducting low- and moderate-speed track tests of vehicles with automatic braking systems.

They've also bumped up standards for headlights. The latest awards are the first to factor in a passenger-side crash test. This year, a new test was included - simulating what happens when the front corner of the passenger's side smacks into a tree or pole.

This year the criteria proved a bit more hard to meet.

"Most drivers when they buy a vehicle they think the passenger is going to be protected as well as they are". Check out the full list of models that qualify. Fifteen of those earning its highest award despite tougher criteria requiring better headlights and enhanced passenger side protection.

The vast majority of award winners only qualify when optionally equipped with front crash prevention and acceptable or good headlights aren't part of their base trims, the institute said.

"The improvements in occupant protection have been incredible over the past decades", he said in a statement.

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