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   May 2010   |  Subscribe   |   
 
  In This Issue
How to Buy a Safe Car
• Crash Test Ratings
• By the Numbers
• Further Information

 

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Diane Flaherty
(952) 546-5411
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Safe...or Sorry: Buying a New Car
Weight + Crashworthiness + Avoidance = Survival

Twice as many people die each year
in small cars than in large cars.

There are as many different ways to look at the factors that make cars safe as there are different cars. Most people think of crash-test results first. Important, yes, but take a closer look. Weight and size are critical factors that rank right up there with crashworthiness. And, in fact, statistics show that small cars have more than twice as many occupant deaths each year as large cars. So only compare crash-test results between cars in the same weight class.

Government and industry crash tests focus on structural integrity. The front and rear end of the car you choose (sometimes called the crumple zone) should be designed to absorb crash forces by buckling and bending in a serious collision. Also look for a structurally superior passenger compartment, the last line of defense in a collision. The restraint system in a vehicle combines seat belts, airbags and head restraints. All three work together to hold you safely in place while the structure of the vehicle withstands the crash forces.

Look Up, Compare Crashworthiness Ratings

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
    NHTSA tests several of the most popular vehicles on the road by conducting full frontal collisions into a fixed barrier at 35 mph. In 1997 it added a side impact test that documents the damage caused by a deformable barrier smacked into the side of a car at 38 mph. NHTSA also assesses rollover potential for certain SUVs and trucks. Cars are rated from one to five stars in each category, five stars representing the least likelihood of suffering a life-threatening injury in an accident.

  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
    IIHS began conducting offset frontal crash tests in 1995, running only half of the test vehicle into the barrier. The Institute believes this crash type is more likely to occur in real life, thus complementing NHTSA’s full frontal data. IIHS rates a vehicle good, acceptable, marginal or poor. All else being equal, Consumer Reports suggests that you favor IIHS ratings because its crash tests are more demanding than NHTSA’s.

  • Consumer Reports
    Consumer Reports integrates NHTSA and IIHS test results with its own accident avoidance data to create the CR Safety Assessment. Each year, CR engineers and test personnel run more than 40 new cars through numerous individual tests. One catch: You must subscribe to Consumer Reports to receive the CR Safety Assessments on specific new or used cars and trucks.

Avoidance Features Prevent Accidents from Happening
Important and often overlooked are features that will help you avoid accidents in the first place. Several factors contribute to a vehicle’s accident-avoidance performance, including:

  • Tires – Tire condition will greatly impact both braking and emergency handling. Replace worn tires immediately.

  • Braking – Your brakes should stop your car in as short a distance as possible while keeping the vehicle under control. Don’t pump ABS brakes.

  • Emergency Handling – The farther you can push a car before losing control, the safer it will be in an emergency situation. Look for cars with electronic stability control (ESC), especially in SUVs.

  • Acceleration – Vehicles that can get up to highway speed quicker make merging safer.

  • Driver’s Position & Visibility – When positioned correctly, you are comfortable and enjoy better visibility. Some vehicles also have better sight lines than others.
   
 
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