There are changes afoot for pedestrians in America. The latest numbers on roadway fatalities released from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) late last year show good news, at least if you travel on four wheels. But if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, the news as generally awful.

However, data that reliable does matter. This year, for the first time, cars getting a coveted “Top Safety Pick” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had to get respectable scores for features that protect pedestrians. “Safety” is no longer just about people inside the vehicle.

Carmakers know safety is a major selling point

Car buyers care about safety. We put our children in cars, either strapped into their boost seats as children or to help them visit home more often when they are away at college. Besides, we all want to protect our own life and limb as best we can.

That is why many car companies include a “Top Safety Pick,” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in advertisements for their product. Companies that earn them know it also earns them customers and profits. Companies that do not earn a Top Safety Pick often look at what they can do to improve their test results.

In the end, apparently, the IIHS and its very public testing program work in pushing the car industry to steadily improve public safety on American roadways.

Bragging rights go to those keeping passersby alive

This year, cars needed high scores in headlight visibility and in pedestrian-avoidance features. Without them, the IIHS shut the cars out from Top Safety Pick or “Top Safety Pick Plus” awards.

Of the 219 models the IIHS tested, 23 models got their Top Safety Pick Plus award, and 64 qualified as Top Safety Picks.

However, 36 other car models found themselves in a new predicament. If the safety of drivers and passengers was still the only measure, these cars would have qualified this year for a prize, and to advertise that prize. But their score or keeping pedestrians alive kept them out of the winner’s circle.