When shopping for a new car there are many features you will want to look at before you decide to buy; how the car drives, the standard and optional features available, perhaps the available technology and of course the safety. There are several factors to consider when looking a vehicle’s overall safety. Air bags are not the only important feature.
1. Crash-Test Ratings. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put every vehicle through rigorous crash-tests to identify how safe the vehicle is. The IIHS puts vehicles through three different tests to determine the vehicles stability and occupant protection. They test the vehicle in a 40 mph frontal offset crash, side crash and rear crash. Cars tested by the IIHS are also given rollover ratings and bumper evaluations. Each year a Top Safety Pick list is put together by the IIHS and vehicles on this list are by the far the safest on the roads.
The NHTSA puts all vehicles through similar tests to test the vehicles structure and ability to protect its occupants. The NHTSA uses a full frontal and side impact test and scores the vehicles on a five-star scale, with fewer starts indicating a greater probability of serious injury. The full frontal tests is a good indicator of how well the seat belts and air bags protect passengers in the vehicle.
2. Accident avoidance. Today’s technology equips vehicles with multiple features that can aid in accident avoidance. When searching for a new car it’s important to check that the car is equipped with this different safety features.
Electronic stability control (ESC) is designed to help drivers maintain vehicle control on its intended path during sharp turns to prevent it from sliding or skidding. The IIHS estimates if all vehicles had electronic stability control up to 10,000 lives could be saved annually. ESC is a helpful feature on all vehicles but especially in SUVs that are easier to rollover, and rollover resistance is another safety feature to keep in mind when shopping. To help consumers determine the vehicles rollover resistance the NHTSA performs a rollover test and scores vehicles with a Rollover Resistance Rating. This rating calculates the vehicle’s static stability factor, a number based on the vehicles center of gravity and width. This rating combined with a dynamic rollover test performed with moving vehicles can tell consumers how likely a vehicle is to rollover.
An anti-lock braking system is standard on almost all vehicles today due to its importance during emergency stops. ABS will prevent a driver from losing control and allowing the car to swerve during a panic stop. This feature is very helpful in avoiding rear end crashes.
3. Air bags. All new passenger vehicles are required to have dual front air bags; but the sophistication of these systems can vary. When searching for a new car look for vehicles that have a “smart” air bag system. These systems use factors such as position of the seat, severity of the crash and weight of the seat occupants. Based on these factors the air bags will deploy with more or less force or not at all if there is no passenger or the front passenger is too short. Side curtain airbags are also becoming more popular in new vehicles. These air bags deploy from the headliner and covers both the front and rear windows. These airbags help in protecting the head during a crash.
4. Head restraints. Whip-lash is a very common injury during a rear end collision and head restraints are vital for guarding against this. The proper height of a head restraint should be tall enough to cushion the head just above the top of the spine. Look for head restraints that lock in position; otherwise those that don’t could be forced down in a crash and lose effectiveness.
5. Child safety. All cars today come with a universal system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) which is designed to make attachment of child seats easier and more secure. When looking at new cars make sure to test your current child seat in the vehicle and find a vehicle that is compatible with your child’s seat. Another factor to consider in child safety is power windows. There have been instances where children have activated the power window while leaning out of it and have been injured or killed. The best types of switches are ones that are flush with the surrounding trim and only raise the window when pulled up.
Shopping for a new car can be a challenging process, but when you know what you are looking for the job gets a little easier. Make sure to check for all of these safety features and consider vehicles that have all of them.