New cars are safer than ever

Are you contemplating a new car this year? If yes, then you will probably find your new vehicle is safer than ever but has many new safety features that you may not be used to, features that make newer cars safer but come with a learning curve.

Good information on vehicle safety, from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), should be helpful to anyone buying a new vehicle.

First, everyone should be aware that a heavier model will provide greater protection for its occupants and should be a “must” for a new teen driver. As a rule, the newer the vehicle, the greater the crash protection offered. IIHS continually raises the bar for its TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards, spurring manufacturers to make improvements. If you’re purchasing a new vehicle for a young driver — or a new family car that you expect your teen will drive at some point in the future — make sure it’s a current award winner.

Many newer vehicles have advanced driver assistance features. These include automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure prevention, blind spot detection and other systems shown to reduce crashes.

Such features have become common on new vehicles. AEB that can prevent or mitigate both front-to-rear crashes with other vehicles and crashes with pedestrians is required for the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK and TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. Under a voluntary commitment by automakers, almost all new vehicles will be equipped with standard AEB by the 2023 model year.

Electronic stability control is a must. The technology, which has been required on most passenger vehicles since the 2012 model year, substantially reduces fatal crash risk due to loss of control of the vehicle.

A safe vehicle will have four or five stars from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and, at a minimum, good ratings in four IIHS crash tests: moderate overlap, side, roof strength and head restraints. Ideally, you want a vehicle that also has a good or acceptable rating in the IIHS driver-side small overlap test, which was introduced in 2012.

Choosing a newer vehicle will also let you consider headlight performance, which IIHS started evaluating in 2016. Since 2020, TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners are required to have good or acceptable headlights as standard equipment. Nighttime crash rates are substantially lower for vehicles with good or acceptable headlights than for vehicles with poor ones.

Because of these factors, crash avoidance features are particularly helpful for teenagers, even though they’re designed for everyone. An IIHS study found that AEB, lane departure prevention and blind spot monitoring could be relevant to about a third of teen driver deaths and a quarter of teen driver injuries.

When considering a new vehicle, it’s very important to do your research and choose a vehicle that will offer you the best safety features. Driving or riding in an automobile is one of the most dangerous things anyone does daily, so safety does count.


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