How Safe is Your Vehicle?

Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks for 2011

You’ve got your eye on a new vehicle because it’s sporty or maybe luxurious. How safe is that vehicle that you will be making payments on for several years? Will it protect you and your family if you are involved in an automobile crash? If you are searching for a new car it might be worth your time to review information on website of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).[1]

IIHS rates crashworthiness or how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash. “The Institute rates vehicles as good, acceptable, marginal and poor based on performance in high speed front and side crash test, a rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear end impacts. To earn Top Safety Pick for 2011, a vehicle must have good ratings in all four Institute tests.”[2] We have probably all seen these tests on shows like Dateline and 60 Minutes. The violent car crash as portrayed on film clips may seem like a waste of a good vehicle, however these tests have caused manufacturers to create new technology to protect passengers and save lives.  Having visited IIHS numerous times, I find the technology used there to be  amazing.  As soon as the vehicle is crashed, computers are hooked up to the “crash dummies” to download information and determine what forces they were subjected to, what their injuries would be, would a person likely have survived the crash, and so on. IIHS says that “The dummies mimic the movement of humans in real crashes and record the forces that would be inflicted on the body. Each dummy has 25 to 40 sensors to record forces on head, chest, abdomen, legs and other body parts”.

According to the Institute “all vehicles have basic features to reduce crash likelihood; lights so other motorists can see you, brakes to stop, etc.” Some new features, including alerts if you stray from your lane or get too close to a car in front of you, have not been scientifically evaluated yet.  Electronic stability control seems to be an effective new technology. Electronic stability control is an extension of antilock brake technology that “helps drivers maintain control in the worst situation; loss of control at high speed. These systems engage automatically to help bring a vehicle back in the intended line of travel”.

Electronic stability control lowers the risk of fatal single-vehicle crash by about half; it lowers the risk of a fatal rollover crash by as much as 80 percent, according to IIHS. You can go to an IIHS website to determine if a vehicle you are considering has electronic stability control.[3]

When you are out there shopping for a vehicle, make sure the vehicle doesn’t just catch your eye because of its looks; take the time to make sure the vehicle is safe for you and your family.

A few of the Institute’s Top Safety Picks for 2011:[4]


  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Cadillac CTS
  • Dodge Charger
  • Ford Taurus
  • Hyundai Genesis
  • Mercedes E Class Sedan and Coupe


  • Audi A3
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Ford Fusion
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Optima
  • Volkswagon Jetta Sedan


  • Honda Civic
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Nissan Cube
  • Scion TC
  • Subaru Impreza
  • Toyota Corolla

[1] See Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s (IIHS) website at
[2] See IIHS ratings for 2011 at
[3] See individual vehicle safety ratings at
[4] Please check the IIHS website for a complete listing.