Friday, February 29, 2008
How Crashworthy are your Wheels?
Here are the best Web sites to learn about car safety.
• www.iihs.org Crash test data from insurance industry researchers
• www.safercar.gov Five-star crash rating system from government tests
• www.consumerreports.org Fee-based site with independent safety data
Car accidents are one of the biggest health risks we face, and this week that risk jumps higher. July Fourth is typically one of the worst days of the year for traffic fatalities.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself in a car is to wear a seatbelt, obey traffic laws and don't drink and drive. What you drive can also make a difference. Now there are a number of Web sites that show just how well your car held up in a crash.
Last fall, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that safety improvements in the design of passenger vehicles -- not safer drivers -- are the reason motor vehicle death rates have been improving for the past decade. The study found an "increasingly dangerous traffic environment," and that drivers are actually getting more careless about seatbelts, speeding and driving while intoxicated. In fact, the study showed that if vehicle designs hadn't improved since 1985, traffic death rates would be on the rise.
Although most cars now come with airbags and anti-lock brakes, crash test studies show there's a big difference in safety among cars today. One of the best places to check out your car is www.iihs.org4. Click on "Vehicle Ratings." The IIHS is supported by auto insurers and is viewed as one of the most credible sources for research on car safety. The group publicizes the best performers in crash tests, but many consumers don't know the safety data is free online.
The IIHS vehicle ratings page lists its top picks for 2007, the first year the institute has rated cars for electronic stability control, which helps drivers maintain control in an emergency. Research has shown that ESC features significantly reduce the risk of dying in a car accident.
Finding Out How Your Car Will Hold Up in a Crash
WSJ, July 3, 2007; Page D1
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