The Safest Car for Your Buck

Date:23-05-2013 06:50:04 read:6
Category:Life Style-->Entertainment

Hey, eyes on the road!

Go big, or you may not make it home. Crash-test ratings can be misleading, and big vehicles nearly always best small sedans when it comes to passenger safety, finds new research from the University of Buffalo.

Using tens of thousands of real-world, head-on accident reports collected between 1995 and 2010, researchers compared survival rates among drivers of passenger cars to those of sport utility vehicles. When both vehicle types were involved in an accident, the passenger-car driver was at least five times more likely to die than the SUV pilot, regardless of the vehicles’ safety ratings, according to the study.

It all comes down to physics, says lead study author Dietrich Jehle, M.D., a vehicle safety researcher and assistant medical director at Buffalo’s School of Medicine. A larger, heavier object will nearly always do more damage to a smaller, lighter object than vice versa, Jehle explains. But even when weights are equal, drivers and passengers in SUVs are safer because their vehicles ride higher off the ground—one of several factors that increases an SUV’s “crush zone,” the areas around the vehicle’s passengers that take the brunt of the impact forces, Dr. Jehle explains.

So if safety is your number one priority, Jehle says heavier vehicles that ride high off the ground—basically, SUVs and trucks—are your best friend in an accident. And other research backs him up: A recent analysis of insurance company rates based on personal injury outcomes found the top five safest autos are all SUVs or trucks, while the bottom five are smaller passenger vehicles.

A few more ways to identify the safest ride:

Stars still matter. When cars of similar sizes and weights were involved in a severe accident, each one-star increase in a vehicle’s government crash-test safety rating boosted the driver’s chance of survival by 22 percent, according to more of Dr. Jehle’s research.

Newer is safer. For every year your ride moves closer to the current model year, your likelihood of getting into a rollover crash drops 6 percent, shows research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Why? Auto-industry-wide adoption of safety improvements like electronic stability control mean newer vehicles—particularly those starting with model year 2008—are a lot more stable than their older ilk, the NHTSA explains.

Smart headlights = Safer cars. By improving your vision at night, adaptive headlights that shift to the left or right while you turn lower your chances of a crash-related injury by up to 30 percent, according to a study of the most-effective new safety features conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

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