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How To Identify Your New Car Safety Ratings

Jan 14, 2008
One of the most important considerations you should never overlook when buying a new or used vehicle is its safety features. Safety has become more important to everyone in recent years; let's face it we spend a lot of time in our cars and with our families so car safety should outrank any cosmetic preferences. Now there are very specific government and auto industry standards to keep you and your family safe so let's take a look at what to look for.

One of the best car safety indicators of overall safety is the government crash test rating. All new vehicles will have these ratings readily available and it is a great place to begin understanding what you new car safety rating is. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA which you can find at www.nhtsa.dot.gov/ is your first stop. The NHTSA uses two methods of crash testing in determining the safety of the vehicle, full frontal impact and side impact. The NHTSA uses a five star rating scale, the higher the number of stars the safer the vehicle is, the lower the number of stars the more dangerous the vehicle. You can find an outline of these car safety ratings and grades at www.safercars.gov.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is another great resource to help with learning about your car safety rating as well. The IIHS is a research group which conducts crash tests as well but more for the insurance industry. The one important difference about their frontal crash testing is that they use a more realistic offset testing method. Instead of crashing head on, which is extremely rare in frontal accidents, the crash test runs the vehicle into a deformable barrier meant to simulate another vehicle moving at 40 M.P.H. and the barrier only covering the portion of the vehicle in front of the driver. Most head on accidents are usually offset somewhat which usually results in worse damage due to torque and structural weakness. The IISH car safety tests cover this and help us understand the reality of a true head on collision. The IISH scores or ratings in their tests are rated by Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor.

Now that you have a better idea of what your car safety rating is, you will also want to know what type of air bag system the vehicle has. All new vehicles are only mandated by law to have dual front airbags but many manufacturers realizing the important of safety have begun to offer side and rear airbags as well which is even more important in multi passenger vehicles like vans and SUVs. The side curtain airbags that drop down from the headliner offer greater head protection from the side and are highly recommended. Some vehicles now even have weight sensors as well that disable the airbag if a person below a certain weight is sitting there. This improvement came about from the first airbags that injured shorter people in the front seat due to headshots and airbag release pressure. You will start to see these improved safety sensors more and more from new vehicles.

Another very important consideration is the rollover rate of the vehicle as well. Vehicles with a higher profile are more likely to turn over. SUVs are up to three times more likely to roll over than passenger vehicles. The majority of all SUV fatalities have been due to rollover. Most SUVs come with options of 4 Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive giving owners a false sense of security. Drivers of these vehicles think that because they have these options are invincible and push the envelope then expect the vehicle to perform whatever situations drivers put them in. Unfortunately, although they might have better traction in adverse weather and road conditions, these vehicles have more of a possibility of tipping when sharp cornering is attempted.

Antilock brakes have been around awhile and are a proven safety device, which is why insurance companies give you a discount if your vehicle has them; we highly recommended that you buy a vehicle with ABS. Although many who use ABS the first time hate the feeling of not stopping like they used to, ABS does prevent the wheels from locking up during a hard stop, something that can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. ABS almost always provides shorter stops, but, even more importantly, the system helps keep the vehicle straight and allows the driver to maneuver during a panic stop.

Obviously child safety is what most of us really care about first off and for good reason. If you do have infants always make sure you look for a new technology called LATCH which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This universal system was designed to make it easier and safer to attach car seats due to the fact that many car seats are incompatible with the vehicle's safety belts. You'll also find more and more automobile manufacturers are adding build in car seats to ensure even more safety for our children which you might see this prominently in Mini Vans right now.

One more thing I'd like to touch on is the power features in a car. You should be sure that if the vehicle has power windows and door locks, which is basically a standard feature on most models now, it also has disabling locks that you can control to keep children from accidentally opening doors and windows and creating unwanted chances for injury.

As you can see there are many issues when discussing new car safety and these are just a few of the main safety features to look for. There are many other Consumer Reports and car safety reviews that provide even more information and provide good source for comprehensive car safety information.

Gregg Hall is a business consultant and author for many online and offline businesses and lives in Navarre Florida with his 16 year old son. For quality car care products go to http://www.stopwaxing.com
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