This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our Privacy and Cookie Notice for more details. X

Auto Safety Guide

Auto Safety Guide

By Jeff Youngs, February 24, 2012
Buying a "safe" vehicle requires a little homework. To make it easier and quicker for you, the JDPower.com editorial staff has assembled a thumbnail guide on how to buy a safe car or truck, including a review of common safety equipment as well as the newest technologies. Lists of some of the best models to consider, based on results from crash tests conducted by the insurance industry's safety group and the federal government's highway safety agency, are a key feature. Poor performers on crash tests also are provided.

This quick safety guide also includes tips on how to be a safer driver. This safety tip section is a great refresher for seasoned motorists, and it serves as a practice guide for newer drivers. There's even a special section on how to be safe in an SUV.

How to Buy a Safe Car:

1. Review crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

2. When comparing NHTSA frontal crash test results, remember that the ratings are only valid when compared to vehicles of similar size and weight

3. Heavier vehicles typically protect occupants better than lighter vehicles

4. Buy a car that is equipped with the following:

  • Dual-stage front air bags

  • Seat-mounted side air bags

  • Side curtain air bags for all rows of seats

  • Stability control

  • Secure and responsive handling
How to Be Safe on the Road:
  • Always use seat belts

  • Pay attention to the road, not your cell phone, your coffee mug, or your iPod

  • Slow down in bad weather

  • Brake early, accelerate slowly

  • Don't tailgate and "shop lanes," or thread through traffic

  • Signal lane changes and turns

  • Keep your tires, suspension, brakes and steering well maintained

  • Keep your windows clean

  • Make sure your headlights, tail lights, turn signals and hazard lights work
>Important New Safety Technologies of the past 20 years:
  • Air bags: Dual-stage front air bags, seat-mounted side air bags, and side curtain air bags are the most important safety innovations of the past 20 years.

  • Stability Control: After air bags, stability control is the most important safety innovation of the past 20 years. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, stability control "significantly reduces crash risk, especially the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes."

  • Structural Engineering: Modern cars are engineered to funnel crash energy over, around, and under the passenger compartment.

  • Anti-lock brakes help maintain control in slippery conditions.

  • Reversing cameras and rear sonar sensing systems help identify objects, such as children, that are behind the vehicle when reversing.

  • Tire-pressure-monitoring systems, now mandated by the government, tell when tire pressures fall below a safe level.

  • Blind spot warning systems are just arriving on the market, and help identify when it's safe to make a lane change.

  • Self-sealing and run-flat tires, which prevent the need to pull over onto the side of the road to change the tire. Especially good in places where shoulders are narrow or non-existent, where there's frequently bad weather, and for people who often travel after dark.


SUV Safety:
The safety of SUVs has improved dramatically in the past few years.

  • Many consumers are choosing crossover SUVs, which handle better and have a lower center of gravity

  • Stability control systems have been added to help keep SUVs under control

  • Several models, such as the Ford Explorer, come with sensors that can detect an imminent rollover and use the stability control system to try and prevent it.

  • Several models also come with side curtain air bags that deploy for an extended period of time during a rollover accident to better protect occupants.

  • NHTSA rollover ratings frequently find that SUVs with 4WD are less likely to rollover than SUVs with 2WD.
How to be Safe when Driving an SUV:

  • Always wear your seat belt

  • 4WD is good for accelerating, can sometimes help when turning, but doesn't improve the SUV's ability to stop. Slow down in bad weather.

  • Remember that an SUV has a higher center of gravity, which means it doesn't handle as well as a regular car. Take turns slower than normal.

  • Remember that an SUV typically weighs more than a regular car, which means it doesn't stop as fast or as easily. Don't tailgate.
Safest Vehicles According to the IIHS:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says these 2008 models are the safest based on offset frontal impact and side-impact crash testing, as well as evaluations of seat and head restraints to protect against neck injury in a rear crash. To receive the Top Safety Pick honor, the vehicle must receive a "Good" rating in each test and come equipped with electronic stability control:

  • Acura MDX (SUV)

  • Acura RDX (SUV)

  • Audi A3

  • Audi A4

  • Audi A6

  • BMW X3 (SUV)

  • BMW X5 (SUV)

  • Cadillac CTS

  • Ford Edge (SUV)

  • Ford Taurus (with optional stability control)

  • Ford Taurus X (SUV)

  • Honda Accord Sedan

  • Honda CR-V (SUV)

  • Honda Element (SUV)

  • Honda Odyssey

  • Honda Pilot (SUV)

  • Hyundai Entourage

  • Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV)

  • Hyundai Veracruz (SUV)

  • Infiniti EX 35 (SUV)

  • Kia Sedona

  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class (SUV)

  • Mercury Sable (with optional stability control)

  • Nissan Murano (SUV)

  • Saab 9-3

  • Saturn Vue (SUV)

  • Subaru Forester (with optional stability control) (SUV)

  • Subaru Impreza (with optional stability control)

  • Subaru Legacy (with optional stability control)

  • Subaru Tribeca (SUV)

  • Toyota Highlander (SUV)

  • Toyota Tundra

  • Volvo XC90 (SUV)

  • Volvo C70

  • Volvo S80
Least Safe Vehicles According to the IIHS:

The following 2008 models received a "Poor" crash-test rating from the IIHS in either the frontal offset crash test or the side-impact crash test OR did not receive a "Good" rating in either crash test:

  • Chevrolet Aveo

  • Chevrolet TrailBlazer

  • Chevrolet Uplander (without optional side air bags)

  • Chrysler 300 (without optional side air bags)

  • Dodge Charger (without optional side air bags)

  • Dodge Dakota

  • Ford Crown Victoria (without optional side air bags)

  • Ford Ranger

  • GMC Envoy

  • Hummer H3

  • Hyundai Accent

  • Isuzu Ascender

  • Kia Rio

  • Kia Spectra

  • Mazda 3 (without optional side air bags)

  • Mazda B-Series

  • Mercury Grand Marquis (without optional side air bags)

  • Mitsubishi Raider

  • Pontiac G6 Convertible

  • Saab 9-7X

  • Suzuki Forenza

  • Suzuki Reno

  • Toyota Corolla

  • Volkswagen New Beetle
Safest Vehicles According to the NHTSA:
This list contains models that received 5-star crash test ratings for frontal and side-impact tests, combined with a rollover rating of at least 4 stars.

  • Acura MDX with side air bags (SUV)

  • Acura RDX with side air bags (SUV)

  • Acura RL with side air bags

  • Audi Q7 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Buick Enclave with side air bags (SUV)

  • Chevrolet Equinox (SUV)

  • Chevrolet HHR

  • Chevrolet Malibu with side air bags

  • Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid with side air bags

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended Cab

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab

  • Chrysler Pacifica with side air bags (SUV)

  • Chrysler Town & Country with side air bags

  • Dodge Caliber with side air bags

  • Dodge Dakota Crew Cab

  • Dodge Grand Caravan with side air bags

  • Ford Crown Victoria

  • Ford Expedition 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Ford Expedition EL 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4WD with side air bags

  • Ford Mustang Convertible with side air bags

  • Ford Taurus with side air bags

  • Ford Taurus X with side air bags (SUV)

  • GMC Acadia with side air bags (SUV)

  • GMC Sierra 1500 Regular Cab

  • GMC Sierra 1500 Extended Cab

  • GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab

  • Honda CR-V with side air bags (SUV)

  • Honda Odyssey with side air bags

  • Honda Pilot with side air bags (SUV)

  • Honda Ridgeline with side air bags

  • Hyundai Entourage with side air bags

  • Hyundai Santa Fe with side air bags (SUV)

  • Hyundai Sonata with side air bags

  • Hyundai Tucson with side air bags (SUV)

  • Hyundai Veracruz with side air bags (SUV)

  • Infiniti FX35/45 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Kia Optima with side air bags

  • Kia Sedona with side air bags

  • Kia Sorento 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Kia Sportage 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Lexus RX350 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Lincoln Navigator 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Lincoln Navigator L 4WD with side air bags (SUV)

  • Lincoln Town Car with side air bags

  • Mazda CX-7 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Mazda CX-9 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Mercedes-Benz M-Class with side air bags (SUV)

  • Mercury Grand Marquis with side air bags

  • Mercury Sable with side air bags

  • Mitsubishi Outlander with side air bags (SUV)

  • Mitsubishi Raider Crew Cab

  • Nissan Altima with side air bags

  • Nissan Altima Hybrid with side air bags

  • Nissan Quest with side air bags

  • Pontiac Torrent (SUV)

  • Saturn Aura with side air bags

  • Saturn Aura Hybrid with side air bags

  • Saturn Outlook with side air bags (SUV)

  • Subaru Forester with side air bags (SUV)

  • Subaru Legacy with side air bags

  • Subaru Outback with side air bags

  • Subaru B9 Tribeca with side air bags (SUV)

  • Suzuki XL7 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Toyota Avalon with side air bags

  • Toyota Camry with side air bags

  • Toyota Camry Hybrid with side air bags

  • Toyota Camry Solara with side air bags

  • Toyota Tacoma Crew Cab

  • Volkswagen Touareg 2 with side air bags (SUV)

  • Volvo XC90 with side air bags (SUV)
Least Safe Vehicles According to the NHTSA:
We searched for models that received 3 stars or fewer in each of the NHTSA's main crash-test categories, including the rollover rating, and could not find any models that meet this criterion. This fact alone indicates that cars have gotten much safer in the past two decades.�JDPower.com
Untitled Document

Subscribe to J.D. Power Cars Newsletter

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement