Much has changed on the nation's roads since the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was founded more than half a century ago — and many of those changes came about as a result of IIHS work. Here are some key dates from our history.


After several years of steady improvements in small overlap front protection on the driver side, IIHS launches the passenger-side small overlap front test to encourage manufacturers to optimize crashworthiness on both sides of the vehicle.


IIHS launches headlight ratings, filling a void in information about this basic equipment.


IIHS completes a $30 million expansion of its Vehicle Research Center to enable it to evaluate crash avoidance technologies year-round.

IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announce a voluntary commitment by 10 automakers to equip all new vehicles with a standard front crash prevention system with automatic braking. More manufacturers sign on in subsequent months, with more than 99 percent of the U.S. vehicle market ultimately represented.

IIHS issues its first LATCH ratings, providing information on how easy or hard it is to install child restraints in more than 100 vehicles.


After research shows many teenagers aren't driving the safest vehicles, IIHS issues its first recommendations on used vehicles for young drivers.


IIHS launches its first test program of an advanced crash avoidance technology, rating vehicles for front crash prevention.

IIHS embarks on a major expansion of the VRC to accommodate more research on advanced crash avoidance systems. The work includes an expansion of the existing test track and the construction of a covered track to allow for testing in all kinds of weather.


IIHS introduces a small overlap frontal test to driver further improvements in crash protection. Most vehicles initially earn poor or marginal ratings.

HLDI analysis of insurance claims data shows that forward collision warning and adaptive headlights are reducing crashes.


In the first real-world study of advanced crash avoidance systems, HLDI shows that Volvo's City Safety, a forward collision avoidance system, prevents crashes.

An IIHS study of red light cameras in use in 14 large cities finds the devices reduce the fatal red light running crash rate by nearly a quarter.


Contrary to expectations, IIHS study finds that older drivers aren't dying more often in crashes, even though they're holding onto their licenses longer.

IIHS crash tests demonstrate the safety risks of allowing low-speed vehicles, which are exempt from federal safety standards for passenger vehicles, on public roads.

HLDI examines the effectiveness of state bans on handheld cellphones and texting, determining that neither restriction reduces crashes.


In honor of its 50th anniversary, IIHS conducts a crash test that shows just how much vehicle safety has improved. The test is a 40 mph moderate overlap frontal crash involving two Chevrolets, a 1959 Bel Air and a 2009 Malibu. The Malibu's structure holds up well, while the Bel Air crumples around the driver dummy.

IIHS launches roof strength ratings to help consumers choose vehicles that will protect them in rollovers. A good roof strength rating becomes a requirement for Top Safety Pick.


IIHS is first to compare booster seats and rate their potential effectiveness based on how well they improve the fit of adult lap and shoulder belts for children too old for child restraints but too young for belts alone.


IIHS finds huge benefits of electronic stability control in reducing serious crashes, accelerating introduction of this feature ahead of federal requirements.

The first Top Safety Pick awards recognize vehicles with top ratings in IIHS front, side and rear tests.


A dynamic test simulating a rear impact is added to the Institute's head restraint evaluations. The test uses a new kind of dummy specifically designed to measure neck injury potential in rear crashes.


IIHS launches crash tests to rate crashworthiness in side impacts. Automakers respond by improving vehicle designs to provide better protection in side impacts.


Years of IIHS research on teen drivers pay off when the nation's first three-stage graduated licensing law goes into effect in Florida.


IIHS rates head restraints for their potential to protect people's necks in rear-end crashes. Automakers respond with designs that reduce neck injury risk.

IIHS launches offset crash testing to rate frontal crashworthiness. Automakers respond by improving vehicle designs to provide better occupant protection in frontal crashes.


IIHS reveals that daylight saving time reduces crash deaths, a finding that contributes to subsequent designation of more weeks clock-forward.


IIHS opens the Vehicle Research Center (VRC) in Ruckersville, Virginia.


Two 1989 Chrysler LeBarons collide head-on in rural Virginia. Both drivers walk away with minor injuries. The crash, believed to be the first of its kind involving two airbag-equipped vehicles, vindicates IIHS and other safety advocates who lobbied for decades for an airbag requirement, which had just been enacted.


IIHS publishes the first consumer information that compares death rates among drivers by vehicle make and model.


Supreme Court rules in favor of insurers' efforts to get airbags in cars.


IIHS makes first appearance on primetime television in "60 Minutes" segment on Jeep rollover dangers.

IIHS is first to document the hazards to pedestrians of allowing motorists to turn right at red lights. This leads policymakers in New York City and elsewhere to resist or limit right-turn-on-red.

IIHS tests demonstrate the tendency of the Jeep CJ to roll over, prompting the government to require rollover warnings on some vehicles.


IIHS research on signal timing leads traffic engineers to lengthen yellow light intervals.


IIHS crash tests demonstrate airbag effectiveness in frontal crashes. Highlights are shown before a U.S. congressional committee.


IIHS develops the injury severity score to help medical personnel assess the threat to life of injuries to multiple body parts.

IIHS evaluates the consequences of lowering the legal minimum age for purchasing alcohol. Findings provide the scientific basis for enacting 21 minimum age laws in all states.


IIHS crash tests demonstrate that car fuel system designs allow ruptures, gas leaks and fires in rear crashes. This leads to new federal rules to reduce leaks.


The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) is organized as an affiliate of IIHS to collect, analyze and publish insurance loss information on most car, SUV, pickup truck and motorcycle models on U.S. roads.


IIHS launches bumper tests, which lead to the first federal bumper standard.


IIHS becomes a scientific research and communications organization after the Board of Governors votes to change its mission.


Three insurance industry groups representing more than 500 auto insurers establish IIHS to funnel support to academic and other organizations in the field of highway safety.