At the bottom are some links to crash test ratings for new and used vehicles.
MUST-HAVE SAFETY FEATURES
- Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC)
Like most people, you have probably never heard of this technology - but it is expected to save more lives than the invention of the seat belt - as it PREVENTS crashes from happening in the first place! If all vehicles were equipped with ESC, as many as 9,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year in the US.
Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) systems are marketed under various names, including dynamic stability control, vehicle stability control, dynamic stability and traction control, among others. The percentage of vehicles with this technology has increased tenfold since the 1998 model year. For the 2009 model year, ESC was standard on 73 percent of new passenger vehicle models and optional on 14 percent.
Curious about ESC? Click here for a great explanation of ESC and how it works. Curious whether your vehicle (or the one you are considering buying) has ESC? Click here to see all the vehicles since model year 1995 with ESC.
- Side-Impact Airbags (SABs)
The best SABs are those that offer head protection to the front AND back seat passengers. Visit this website from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to learn which vehicles offer side airbags. When you find a vehicle you are interested in, click on the "view details" button to learn about which type of side airbags are featured in that vehicle. Curious if side airbags are safe for your kids - please click here to read more about the safety of SABs for ALL members of your family.
- Adequate cargo space
Cargo in the passenger area just isn't safe. Things (objects, people, etc) become very heavy in a crash - they will weight their usual weight TIMES the speed of the crash. For example, a 10 lb baby in a 30mph crash will weigh 300 lbs! Unrestrained people and objects will fly around in a crash - becoming missiles that can injure the other people in the car. Make sure you have enough trunk space so that cargo stays out of the passenger area. If buying a vehicle with a 3rd row, it is ideal to keep the third row up, allowing it to serve as a barrier between the cargo and the passengers in the 2nd row.
Two separate government agencies - NHTSA and IIHS - offer crash test ratings for new and older vehicles. Both try to determine a vehicle's crash worthiness using multiple parameters. The frontal crash done by IIHS is more stringent (10mph faster and off-center), which explains the sometimes discrepant results between the two sites.