In 2012, highway safety statistics showed that 33,561 people were killed in U.S. car crashes, with thousands more suffering severe and life-changing injuries. And, it doesn’t even account for victims who luckily escaped with just minor bruises and refused medical attention. Ironically, when asked how they chose their vehicle, the vast majority of new car shoppers didn’t even mention safety as a factor. First and foremost, they said they liked the styling and handling as well as its utility features. But, there was virtually no mention of occupant safety, crash test ratings, or purchasing a safer car to save money on their car insurance as determining factors. Which, apparently, only goes to prove one thing – the car buying public appears to be content in being a real-life “crash test dummy” by ignoring safety for good looks.
Of course, it’s somewhat understandable. No one wants to drive an ugly box on four wheels. However, many of today’s cars and trucks are quite stylish and safe at the same time, having scored high in numerous crash tests. But, because many new cars have an impressive list of “so-called” safety features, new car buyers wrongly believe they’re fully protected no matter what. The truth is, some cars are a great deal more crash worthy than others in their class.
Currently, two organizations are involved in conducting new vehicle crash tests in order to rate them on an individual basis in regard to their relative safety. These organizations are:
• The National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) which performs 3 different kinds of tests. These are: the flat-out, head-on frontal crash at 35 miles per hour; the side impact crash; and the rollover resistance test. Results of these tests are available for viewing at SaferCar.gov.
• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) covers other frequent types of crashes. Funded by the insurance industry, its tests add to the government’s safety information. Because the insurance industry pays for the deaths, injuries, and property damage resulting from crashes, the outcomes of these tests are vital for proper evaluation of vehicles on the roadways.
The IIHS introduced a new test in 2012 referred to as a “Small Overlap Frontal Test”, which, in simple terms, means about 25 percent of the car’s width is rammed into a barrier on the driver’s side at 40 mph. Since a car’s main crush-zone, the area absorbing the majority of the impact in a crash, is located in the mid-50 percent of the front end, damage from such a hit can be devastating. The reason – there’s no significant “crumple zone” near the outer edges of the headlight sections of most cars, leaving the driver more prone to injury in an overlap crash where someone crosses over the center line.
Four test ratings are used to classify the safety rank of a new car. Those are:
In the first seven months of 2014, sales statistics indicated that 2,004,692 of the 24 most popular models sold were rated as Marginal or Poor in the test. This accounts for about 21% of the total 9,604,700 cars sold in the period. To find out how your car rated in the “small overlap frontal test” you can view the results at www.iihs.org.
Next time you’re in the market for a new car, just be aware that safety test results are out there to help you decide on a safer alternative for you and your family.
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Do you ignore crash safety test ratings? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.