Acronym agencies do much for auto safety

If you’re a frequent, or even an occasional reader or these weekly articles on traffic law and traffic safety, you have seen references to information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Data Loss Institute, and you may have wondered just what these organizations are and what they do.

The IIHS, with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, provides consumers, companies and policy makers with objective, data-based information about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to preventing motor vehicle crashes and minimizing injuries to people in crashes that still occur. IIHS research has helped make vehicles and roads safer for everyone.

IIHS was founded in 1959 by three major insurance associations and continues to be wholly supported by U.S. automobile insurers. As an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization, the mission of the IIHS is to reduce losses – deaths, injuries and property damage – from crashes on U.S. roads. Their research and crash test programs are internationally recognized.

At the IIHS’s world-class Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia, engineers rate vehicles for safety based on performance in several crash tests, including moderate overlap frontal crash, side impact, rollover and rear crash tests. Based on these results, the institute gives out its ratings for each vehicle tested.

Prevention of crashes in the first place is another goal of the IIHS. At the Vehicle Research Center, IIHS engineers evaluate the effectiveness of advanced crash avoidance technologies such as forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot detection and adaptive headlights, all of which have been explained in previous “Safety on the Roads” columns.

IIHS also looks for ways to improve driver behavior and roadway design. For example, its work has led states to adopt primary safety belt laws and graduated licensing requirements for beginning teenage drivers. Their studies of roadway design and traffic engineering countermeasures have encouraged states and communities to build roundabouts and install rumble strips. Their research has also shown disappointing results of driver education and driver cellphone use bans.

IIHS’s affiliate organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute, shares and supports the mission of the IIHS. Insurance companies organized the HLDI in 1972 to provide consumers with comparative loss information among vehicles.

The HLDI collects data from companies representing about 80 percent of the market for private passenger auto insurance. With this vast database, which includes loss information for more than 370 million automobiles, HLDI analysts can identify patterns of losses by vehicle make and model. Analysis of this wealth of claim data also helps HLDI determine if crash avoidance and other safety features are making a difference. Consumers can use HLDI’s findings to help find cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs with the lowest insurance losses and proven safety features.

For more information on these two organizations, go to for the IIHS and find a link to the HLDI. For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at