When shopping for a new car, there are so many things to consider, and car safety isn’t always at the top of the list. In the excitement of buying a new car, it is easy to get caught up in the features and aesthetics. After all, you want to be comfortable and look good driving that car down the road. But safety is important. And you don’t have to sacrifice looks and features to find it. But how do you know just how safe a car is?
In 1993, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using a 5-Star Safety Rating system to rate vehicle safety and has required this rating to be displayed on the sticker of new cars for sale since 2006. You can also compare various vehicles on their website when you’re in the market for a new car. But how do they determine those safety ratings?
The NHTSA performs four tests to determine safety: frontal crash, side barrier crash, side pole crash, and rollover resistance. They have selected these tests because most car crashes in the US fit within those categories. Other groups, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent, nonprofit organization, conduct slightly different tests and publish their own safety test results. However, NHTSA is the only group that conducts rollover testing.
Each crash test uses a new car and test dummies. The dummies are secured with seatbelts and monitored for injuries that occurred during the crash. A frontal crash simulates a head-on collision between two vehicles of similar weights. (Frontal crash ratings can only be compared between vehicles in the same weight class.) The side barrier crash simulates an intersection collision (think of a T-bone crash) and you can compare the ratings of all cars regardless of size. The side pole crash simulates a situation, such as a rainy day, where a driver loses control of the car and slides into a non-moving barrier. The rollover resistance rating is not a crash test, but rather a laboratory measurement that determines how top heavy a vehicle is and thus how vulnerable it is to tipping over when being maneuvered in certain situations.
The NHTSA also recommends looking for cars with driver assistance technologies, such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rearview video, and automatic emergency braking. Of course, you should not overlook the important role of seat belts, air bags, and a tire pressure monitoring system. These features combined with the ratings outlined above can help you determine just how safe that car you’re eyeing is. You can check on a specific car through the NHTSA website and also the IIHS website.
If you’re hoping to find out what the safest car of 2019 is, you’re sort of out of luck. For the most part, organizations like NHTSA and IIHS don’t offer that kind of information. This is mostly due to the fact that cars are best compared within categories of similar cars. NHTSA publishes a list of all the cars that received their 5-star rating. IIHS also releases a list of cars that have received their highest rating, of Top Safety Pick+, for 2019.
Car and Driver looked at scores from both groups to select the top ten safest cars for 2019. That list includes Genesis G80, Honda Insight, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Lincoln Continental, Mercedez-Benz E-class, Subaru Impreza, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, and Toyota Camry.
Reading up on a car’s safety ratings might not be as fun as testing out the heated seats or the satellite radio, but it is important. In the event of a crash, you will care a lot more about the safety features than the entertainment package. And while we hope you never find yourself putting the safety features of your own car to the test, if you are injured in an accident, we’re here to help. Contact us for your free consultation.