Each year Americans scour car lots looking for their next vehicle. For many, safety is a top priority, and they carefully weigh safety against affordability and performance when selecting their next vehicle. Vehicles that make the Insurance Institute for Highways Safety’s “Top Safety Picks” list are coveted. In 2012, 69 cars, 38 SUVs, and 3 pickup trucks made this list. This is a record number of vehicles and certainly demonstrates the emphasis automakers are putting on safety, but what makes a vehicle a “Top Safety Pick”?
In order to earn the accolade of “Top Safety Pick”, vehicles are put through a series of tests that measure their performance in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. In order to be chosen, they must earn top marks in each category.

Frontal Crash Test

In a frontal car crash test, dummies equipped with a variety of impact measuring instruments are placed within the vehicle and secured with a 3-point harness—a standard seatbelt. The vehicle is then sent down a track at 40 mph where it hits an offset, deformable barrier designed to emulate another vehicle. A vehicle’s rating is determined by how the dummies are affected during the crash. It is important to remember that a vehicles rating is class-specific as larger vehicles are innately more crash resistant.

Side Crash Test

In the side impact test, a deformable barrier designed to emulate a small truck or SUV is sent down a track at 31 mph where it impacts the vehicle. Two instrumented dummies are placed in the vehicle—one designed to emulate a woman in the front seat and the other designed to emulate a child in the seat behind the driver. Once again, the effect of the dummies during the crash is what determines a vehicle’s ratings. Ratings can be compared across all vehicle classes.

Rear Impact Test

The rear impact test is designed to measure the efficacy of the vehicle’s headrests in preventing injuries such as whiplash. A deformable barrier is sent down a track at 20 mph where it impacts the vehicle. Both static instruments and instrumented dummies are used to measure a vehicles performance during a rear impact car accident.

Rollover Protection Test

The rollover protection test differs from other tests. No dummies are used, and there is no impact barrier involved in the test. Instead, the vehicles roof is crushed. In order to receive a “good” rating from the IIHS, a vehicles roof must be able to withstand 4 times its own weight to a crush depth of 5 inches. This is a much stricter requirement than that mandated by the federal government.
Having a safe car is never a bad thing, but the truth is that most accidents are the fault of one or more drivers. There are very few “car accidents” where no one is at fault. Purchasing a safe vehicle is certainly a step in the right direction, but you must also practice safe, defensive driving techniques. You can discover more about the safest cars of 2012 and the safest cars under $30,000 on this site.
If you are looking for a new, safe car because you have been in an accident, you may be entitled to damages beyond what your insurance company is willing to pay. To learn more, please fill out the case evaluation form found on this page, and one of our car accident injury attorneys will contact you to review your case.