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Most new cars, minivans, pickup trucks and SUVs earn good ratings in front and side crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Some models still need improvement when it comes to protecting people in rollovers and rear crashes. So how is a safety-conscious buyer to choose? The information here, along with our vehicle ratings, can help you identify the best picks.
Whether you are in the market for a new or used vehicle, here are some things to consider:
Look for vehicles that earn IIHS Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick, plus at least 4 of 5 stars from NHTSA.
A good place to start is with our vehicle ratings. Each year, IIHS rates new models for safety based on how well they protect people in front, side, rollover and rear crashes. Models with good ratings in the moderate overlap frontal test, side impact, rollover and rear tests earn Top Safety Pick.
Models that also earn good or acceptable in a new frontal crash evaluation called a small overlap test earn Top Safety Pick+. The test replicates what happens when only the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or a pole. IIHS added the small overlap test to help drive further improvements in frontal crashworthiness.
Only a few 2013 models evaluated so far qualify for Top Safety Pick+. Choose one of these if you are looking for a vehicle that has achieved the highest all-around safety marks.
Find vehicles with crash avoidance features here.
NHTSA also identifies models with advanced features such as lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
Protecting people in crashes is vital. Avoiding them altogether is ideal. Crash avoidance systems can help. Many automakers offer them on 2013 models. Although relatively new, two features — forward collision avoidance and adaptive headlights — already are reducing crashes, based on analysis of insurance losses by the Highway ta Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of IIHS.
Forward collision avoidance alerts you if you get too close to a car in front. Some systems can brake if you don't respond in time. Others brake without warning you first and are meant for low-speed traffic. Adaptive headlights shift direction as you steer to help you see better on curves in the dark. Lane departure warning and blind spot detection are two other technologies intended to help drivers avoid crashes. So far, IIHS and HLDI haven't been able to quantify their benefits.
Automakers have introduced a number of new safety features during the past few years. If you're in the market for a previously owned vehicle, here are some things to help you assess the crashworthiness of older models:
Look up side airbag configurations by make and model, as well as ESC availability for older models.
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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