What to Look For When Buying a Car (Regarding Safety)

What to Look For When Buying a Car (Regarding Safety)

Crashworthiness Safety Features That Matter When Car Shopping

There’s two ways of shopping for a motor vehicle. You can decide which models of vehicles you are interested in and then check their crashworthiness ratings or you can check to see what the top ten cars with the highest crashworthiness ratings are and see which one catches your eye. Either way it’s all about crashworthiness ratings and the latest safety equipment available.

What is crashworthiness? By definition crashworthiness is the ability of a structure, in this case a motor vehicle, to withstand various types of crash tests with a minimum amount of bodily injury to the occupant(s). The crashworthiness tests are administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research program and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The program is responsible for developing and improving the test parameters for rating motor vehicle safety and the IIHS is responsible for administering four different types of testing on the various makes and models of motor vehicles.

The NHTSA’s goal is to reduce the number of deadly crashes and serious injuries occurring in the United States. The program includes testing the newest improvements in vehicle design, safety equipment, and countermeasures to improve the safety of motor vehicle occupants.

Standard Safety Features That Are a Must Have For Insurance Premium Discounts:

  • Air Bags
  • Anti-Lock Breaks
  • Adaptive Cruise Control*
  • Electronic Stability Control

* The Adaptive Cruise Control isn’t required “standard equipment” by the federal government, so typically its part of an upgrade technology package if it’s offered on the make and model you’re interested in purchasing. Cost is approximately $1,400.00 for the technology package.


New Safety Features You May Want to Invest In

Adaptive Headlights:

This new technology offers headlights that pivot with your steering wheel movements, lighting up the road in front of you. This upgraded lighting is especially effective on dark curvy roads and rural areas where road illumination and/or visibility may be limited (dark country roads) without it. People living in deer-populated areas find this technology especially useful. As a stand alone upgrade option the cost ranges between $500 and $1,000 dollars.

Blind-Spot Warning System:

This safety upgrade system relies on cameras or radar to actively monitor your blind spot for you. Drivers are alerted by a dashboard icon when a vehicle moves into your blind spot, and the majority of these warning systems will also give you an audio alert if you try to move into that lane or turn on your blinker (turn signal). Complaints about false warnings makes this upgrade one that may need a bit more time to get the kinks out, but safety experts recommend this feature for teen and older generation drivers who may benefit from the extra help in navigating blind spots.

When available you can expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 dollars for the package that includes this upgrade.

Lane Departure Warning System:

Using cameras or lasers this warning system monitors the lane markings you’re traveling in. If your vehicle leaves its lane without a turn signal from you it’ll give you an audio alert, some also vibrate your seat or steering wheel to jolt you awake or back to a more attentive state. Less than glowing research results and mixed reviews from consumers make this an upgrade you may want to skip until it shows better results all around. Typically, it is offered as standard on some luxury models or bundled into an upgrade technology package.

Forward Collision Warning System:

Using cameras, radar, or lasers this system alerts drivers when they are approaching a vehicle ahead of them too fast. Driver’s attention is redirected to the road by an audible warning sound and/or vibration of the steering wheel. This safety feature is getting glowing results from research and safety studies; in fact, the IIHS says it won’t give a vehicle a top safety rating unless it has this safety feature. “Research shows that front crash prevention systems are helping drivers avoid crashes, and lessening the impact on occupants of the crashes that do happen.” The cost is approximately $1,500 dollars as a stand alone upgrade option and was offered as standard equipment on only 2 percent of some 2013 models.

Forward Collision Warning with Auto-Braking:

This warning system operates in the same way as its predecessor with the added bonus that if the driver doesn’t respond to the warning alerts the car will automatically apply the brakes, actually stopping the vehicle before it collides with the other vehicle or object it was approaching too fast. Safety equipment analysts say that out of all the upgrade safety features “this is the one that matters most.”