Crash Safety Corner

Motor Vehicle Crash Safety "Corner"

This page is intended to provide some current information about the safety or dangers inherent in some motor vehicles sold in the United States. The data is obtained from publications provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [] and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety []. To obtain complete lists of the vehicles tested and the results, please consult the Web Sites established by these organizations.

The following review provides a subjective assessment of the crash safety performance of cars and trucks in what are known as frontal offset impacts. This type of impact is depicted below:

Most real world frontal accidents involve some degree of offset impact. This assessment looks at the scores recorded for crash test dummies, which were seat belted. The criteria for safety measures forces in the dummy's head, chest and femurs. This assessment, by the NHTSA or the IIHS simply looks at the test scores and judges "safety" as a measure of how low or how high the dummy "scored". Any variation in the impact scenario can radically alter the test results, as can variability in dummy size. In all of the tests addressed below, the test dummies were 50th percentile in size--which equals a male subject that is 5'9" and weighs about 170lbs. Dummies that are smaller and larger were not used in this testing.

When you are Shopping for a Safe Car or Truck or Van -- one that is crashworthy -- there are lots of factors to consider. Typically, a heavier vehicle will provide more protection. The most important safety features are those that reduce forces being imposed on your body. These components can be the structure of the vehicle itself -- if it is designed to resist intrusion into the occupant section in all modes of impact (including frontal, side, rear and rollover). Also quite important are the vehicle's restraints. Restraints include seat belts, air bags, seats and headrests and doors. These features should be designed to keep the occupant closely tied to the seat in a crash.

Not all seat belts are created equal; and, the same is true for air bag systems. Some belt systems are integrated into the seats, while others are anchored to the vehicle's floor. How closely the belt is to the occupant has some effect on how quickly and safely it restrains the occupant in certain crashes. Likewise, some belt systems contain retractors which simply lock in place when an accident hers will "suck-up" extra belt to tighten the system.

Evaluation of Vehicles

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety [] rates vehicles each year based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. A new requirement in 2007 is that the winning vehicles must offer electronic stability control. This addition is based on Institute research indicating that ESC significantly reduces crash risk, especially the risk of fatal single vehicle crashes, by helping drivers maintain control of their vehicles during emergency maneuvers. Some of the Top Safety Picks for 2006 and 2007 are shown below:


Vehicle Type 2007
Large Cars
Audi A6
Ford Five Hundred (w/ side airbags)
 Ford Taurus (w/ ESC)
Mercury Montego (w/ side airbags)
 Mercury Sable (w/ ESC)
Midsize Cars
Audi A4
Saab 9-3
 Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy
 Subaru Legacy (w/ ESC)
MinivansHyundai Entourage
Hyundai Entourage
 Kia Sedona
Kia Sedona
Midsize SUVs
Acura MDX
 Acura DDX 
 Ford Edge  
 Ford Taurus 
 Honda Pilot
 Hyundai Santa Fe  
 Lincoln MKX  
 Mercedes M class  
 Subaru B9 Tribeca  
 Volvo XC90  
Small SUVsHonda CR-V
 Subaru Forester (w/ ESC)  
Small Cars
  Honda Civic (4-door)
   Saab 9-2x
   Subaru Impreza (except WRX models)


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