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5 of the Safest Cars for 2011

Updated December 5, 2014

Since 1978, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has provided consumers with automotive safety ratings based on a variety of crash criteria. The Five Star rating system was designed to give consumers informed choices so that market forces would drive vehicle safety improvements, as opposed to forcing safety standards by regulation. Nevertheless, safety standards are imposed by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Under the NHTSA program, the five star rating system can be broken down as follows: five stars means 10% or less chance of serious injury; four stars indicates an 11 to 15% chance of serious injury; three stars predicts a 16-20% risk of serious injury; two stars means a 21-40% chance of serious injury; and the worst rating, one star indicates a more than 40% chance of serious injury. The ratings are applied to various types of collisions, including frontal crash, side impact, and rollover. A similar program operated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks cars as crashworthy in four categories: good, acceptable, marginal, and poor.

To earn a top pick by IIHS, the automobile must score at least good in each IIHS test, and to win overall, electronic stability control is a must. There are pros and cons to using either the IIHS or NHTSA ratings. For example, NHTSA is not a matter of competition. Instead, it is a way to describe safety risk in certain types of crashes. The IIHS ratings seek to point out the very best, and it should be noted that the IIHS ratings are viewed by some as biased. So both systems should be considered together. Though the 2011 safety ratings are not yet available, the safest cars tend to show up again and again, so a look at the 2010 safest rated cars can give us a hint. Passenger cars come in many sub-types, and the following are the safest cars from each subtype in 2010:

Large Cars:  Buick LaCrosse, features electronic stability control, 4-Wheel Antilock breaking system, daytime running lights, child seat lower anchorage, adjustable upper safety belt in both the front belts and rear belts, pretensioner, Energy Management Feature, advanced air bag features, front side airbags, front head airbags, trunk release, Auto Crash Notify, and tire pressure monitoring. Couple those safety devices with state-of-the art luxury, and the Buick LaCrosse is hard to beat, except for your pocket book.

Small Cars: Honda Civic includes Advanced Compatability Engineering Body Structure, antilock braking system with electronic brake distribution, daytime running lights, driver and front passenger head restraints, dual stage and multiple threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger side occupant position detections system, side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring, and vehicle stability assist with traction control.

Midsize Cars: Audi A3 safety features include electronic stability control, four wheel antilock braking system, traction control, daytime running lights, child seat lower anchorage, adjustable upper belts, pretensioners, energy management feature, rare center lap and shoulder belt, advanced airbag features, front side airbags, front head airbags, trunk release, and tire pressure monitoring.

Midsize SUV: Dodge Journey includes advanced multi stage front air bags, side-curtain air bags throughout, electronic stability control and electronic roll mitigation, traction control, and trailer-sway damping. It also has an options rear view camera.

Small SUV: Honda Element features antilock braking system, daytime running lights, dual stage multiple threshold front airbags, three point seat belts with automatic tensioning system, front side airbags and passenger side occupant position detection system, lower anchors and tethers for child seats, side curtain airbags and a rollover sensor, side-impact door beams, tire pressure monitoring, and vehicle stability assist with traction control.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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