When shopping for a new car, Car Safety is often overlooked. Modern technology has made it possible for even the lowest-priced models currently available (2012 Nissan Versa, 2012 Hyundai Accent) to offer safety features that only the highest-priced models used to carry just a few years ago, like side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), vehicle skid control (VSC) and traction control. Today, roughly 90% of vehicles carry NHTSA 4- or 5-Star ratings. In fact, the bare minimum of safety standards today exceeds what was available as top-of-the-line equipment just ten years ago-all while costing tens of thousands of dollars less.
Dual front airbags are now standard on every single car sold in the United States, in addition to Safety Belt Pretensioners, Energy Management Crumple Zones, Anti-Lock Braking Systems, Side Curtain Airbags, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems and Child Seat Lower Anchoring points.
More robust safety features are often offered on more upscale vehicles, which include additional airbags, BlueTooth hands-free connectivity, Electronic Stability Control, Variable Ride-Height Control, Rollover Air Bag protection and Lane Departure Warning systems. More concentration has been places on the B and C pillars of vehicles to withstand more protection for occupants in the event of a rollover (see IIHS Top Safety Picks below).
Vehicle safety features are increasingly under more scrutiny by both the Federal Government and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which reviews its tests and ratings to ensure that the vehicles sold today are as safe as possible. Newly developed safety features integrated in these new vehicles are near-infrared night vision displays, radar- or laser-based collision avoidance systems and sleep detection systems, all which monitor not only the driving conditions, but the driver's continuously changing vitals as well.
All the new advancements in technology mean nothing if the driver behind the wheel does not adhere to safe driving practices.
Although you may have a blindspot detection system and other high-tech driving aids, nothing can replace a good defensive driving strategy.
For example, looking ahead and being aware of the cars around you will make a world of difference when it comes to avoiding potential hazards. Another thing to remember is to minimize distractions. While automotive technology is constantly evolving, mobile devices are also at the forefront of innovation, and it's easy to find yourself driving while distracted if you own such a device.
By pledging to not text and drive and only using approved hands-free devices, you can help reduce the number of distraction-related accidents and save your vehicle from costly collision repair-or worse, personal injury to yourself or others.
Applications have been developed for phones which use its integrated GPS to monitor if the vehicle is moving or not. If the application senses that the vehicle is moving, the text messaging function for the phone cannot be used, eliminating the distraction. Telecommunications companies have also jumped on board, offering a service which automatically sends a message to the person trying to get into contact with the driver, offering an automated response telling the sender that the driver is in transit.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit organization which receives its funding from auto insurers. Vehicle ratings are identified as Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor. In order to earn the 2012 Top Safety Pick designation, a vehicle must have Good ratings in all four tests.
For 2012, all vehicles produced will have standard integrated electronic stability control.
This yeaer, the number of vehicles which carry the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) label as Top Picks have nearly been cut in half due mainly to the IIHS's more stringent testing standards, namely, the newly instituted roof-crush test which subjects a vehicle to substantial force in the event of a rollover accident. In order to gain a the IIHS's label of "Good", the vehicle is required to have a strength-to-weight ratio of 4 times a vehicle's weight, meaning that if the vehicle weights 3000 pounds, its roof must support 12,000 pounds.
In addition the current complement of eleven separate segments, a newly-added Minicars category has introduced to complement the recent spike in production of vehicles which are smaller than traditional compact cars, such as the FIAT 500 and Ford Fiesta.
Moreover, the IIHS conducts high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and test of seat/head restraints to protect against common neck injuries like whiplash and post-accident back pain.
Below is the complete list of 2012 Top Safety Picks as chosen by the IIHS:
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