Vehicle Safety ‘Very’ Important Say Car Buyers
No driver or car buyer wants to dwell on thoughts of an accident, but safety is a prime consideration for many buyers when choosing a new vehicle. With more than 10 million vehicle accidents on U.S. roads each year, the possibility of a crash becomes increasingly likely as the number of cars on the road increases.
The latest research from BuyingAdvice.com shows that almost eighty percent of car buyers say that safety is “very” important in the choice of vehicle they purchase, but far fewer knew the crash test ratings for the car on which they requested an online price quote. Safety ratings on vehicles come from two main sources, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Transport Safety Administration, both of which perform crash tests on new cars and issue ratings based on the results which are published online. Responding to an exclusive survey of 1308 buyers who stated they were within a month of purchasing a new car, only just over half, 52 percent, said they knew the safety ratings of the vehicle for which they had requested a price quote.
While both organizations state that it is important to examine equipment designed to avoid crashes in the first place, such as lights, brakes and steering, their ratings are based largely on the ability of driver and passengers to survive a crash.
The focus of the safety ratings is therefore primarily on seat restraints, body construction, airbags and other features that come into play only in the event of an accident.
While both the NHTSA and the IIHS perform tests, and results from both sources tend to support each other, there are important differences in the way in which the research is conducted that the consumer needs to be aware of when assessing the results.
The NHTSA frontal crash tests are performed at 35 mph into a static barrier while the IIHS test is performed at 40 mph, but assumes a collision with an identical vehicle. The IIHS says this is likely to result in better results for smaller cars than they would receive in a crash with a larger vehicle.
On the basis of fatal crash statistics, the IIHS advises that larger vehicles are generally safer than smaller, quoting numbers for fatal crashes involving SUVs and pickup trucks to back its argument, and it does not give top safety pick award to any small cars on the market in 2007, but 2012 is a different story. The IIHS has awarded the top safety pick for small cars such as the Fiat 500, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, and the new Chevrolet Sonic. IIHS President Allan Laud said that: “Only vehicles that perform the highest level of safety in their respective class are awarded the Institute’s top safety pick.”
To earn the top safety pick awards for 2012, the IIHS requires that a vehicle must display good performance in side crash and high-speed front tests, a rollover test, and pass a thorough evaluation of the seat and head restraints. This is to evaluate the ability of the car to protect the occupants against neck injuries when the car is hit from the back.
The NHSTA has proposed that Electronic Stability Control should be included as standard equipment on all vehicles by 2012, with NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason calling electronic stability control for cars “the greatest life-saving improvement since the safety belt.” Back in 2010, 80% of cars sold in the market already came with electronic stability control.
The question of optional or standard safety equipment is very important when reading safety ratings data. The cars submitted to crash tests are often equipped with equipment which does not come standard on the vehicle.
While this is clearly stated in the research data, 37 percent of our respondents said that they did not know what safety equipment came standard on the vehicle for which they had requested their online price quote.
More than 76 percent of those who participated in the survey said that did not intend to add any optional safety features to their vehicle.
Nowhere is careful comparison more important than when reviewing side and rear impact collision data. Though legislation and consumer pressure has greatly improved the frontal crash test scores of most vehicles, their performance in side and rear impacts has been slower to improve.
Again there is a difference in the testing procedures between the two organizations which is important for consumers to note. In The NHTSA test the vehicle is struck by a moving barrier that mimics the ride height of a standard car while the IIHS test uses a higher profile object that is designed to simulate a collision with a truck or SUV.
The IIHS advises purchasing optional side air bags for protection in side impact collisions and ensuring that the air bags are designed to protect the head in the event of such a crash, where it states the majority of fatal injuries occur.
Side airbags are now becoming standard feature on many models and seat and head restraints vary with trim and price. Though each year more and more safety features are being added as standard, it is once again important to know what exact combination of equipment was included on the crash tested vehicle.
By becoming better informed, consumers can command the safety features they believe are important.