Only 15 vehicles meet tougher criteria for 2018 IIHS top safety rating

2018 safest cars list

The 2018 list of the safest vehicles is out, and just 15 earned the highest rating, down from 69 last year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made it more difficult to be named a Top Safety Pick Plus. Kia and Subaru models were among the highest rated; no minivans, pickups or mini-cars made the cut. 

The new stricter rules will surely get the attention of automakers who care a whole lot about their cars being rated safest on the roads, reports CBS News' Kris Van Cleave. 

"We are trying to send a message to the auto makers that we do want them to improve the protection for their customers," said IIHS president Adrian Lund.

"We did see a big reduction in the number of vehicles that earned top safety picks this year because we raised the bar, but people shouldn't think that vehicles are less safe, they are safer than they have ever been before," Lund said.

A Top Safety Pick Plus vehicle earned a good rating in crash tests and roof strength, and high marks for crash avoidance technology. IIHS is now demanding better performance from car makers when it comes to headlights and passenger protection in what are known as small overlap crashes -- ones involving just the front corner of the vehicle.

Four of the top 15 this year were made by Subaru. 

"Heading out the door, I'm always thinking of safety. Subaru has one of the best vehicles in my opinion to travel in rain and snow," said Subaru owner Linda Robertson.

Forty-seven vehicles made the institute's second tier Top Safety Pick for 2018 after it added a requirement for good or acceptable headlights to qualify – down from 50 last year. The group started testing headlights in 2016 and found most under-perform.

Those 15 cars got the highest rating thanks to optional equipment. The highly-rated headlights, for example, do not come standard on base models and many vehicles lack crash avoidance technology. That won't be standard in most vehicles until 2022, but the IIHS says automakers are already scrambling to make changes to meet the new requirements.