Between auto insurance, gas prices and parking tickets, car owners have a lot on their minds. However, highway safety is one thing that should never be compromised when deciding on a new vehicle. Despite advancements in active safety features, such as infrared sensors and corrective cruise control, nothing should be more important than traditional safety measures. When it comes to these measures, drivers are wondering whether today's cars are meeting the standards of government regulation. Furthermore, can manufacturers' safety ratings be trusted?
The bare minimum is not enough
Many consumers assume that the overall quality of car safety measures increases on a year to year basis. According to Forbes, however, drivers were proven wrong as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently revealed that the number of vehicles given the title of Top Safety Pick dropped from 130 in 2013 to 39 in 2014. This dramatic decrease may be alarming for drivers looking to buy a 2014 model, but they should recognize that the IIHS has made its safety evaluations much more strict over the course of the year. The organization is pushing for manufacturers to incorporate more active safety features designed to prevent accidents by warning drivers of danger on the road.
"We've made it more difficult for manufacturers this year," IIHS President Adrian Lund told the news source. "Following a gradual phase-in, the small overlap crash is now part of our basic battery of tests, and good or acceptable performance should be part of every vehicle's safety credentials. We also felt it was time to offer extra recognition to manufacturers that are offering a proven crash avoidance technology."
Which manufacturers are best protecting drivers in 2014?
Drivers who scan annual lists like IIHS' Top Safety Picks are not only more likely to choose vehicles that will save their lives in a collision, but may also see benefits from auto insurance companies that offer discounts to those who drive well-rated cars. Forbes noted that Honda and their luxury brand Acura were favorites of the IIHS this year, with eight models represented on the Top Safety Pick lists. Subaru, Mazda and Volvo each saw three of their vehicles rise to the occasion and earn spots on the lists as well. However, American manufacturers will need to focus more heavily on adding proactive measures to their vehicles' safety packages if they want to compete with their Japanese counterparts.
The IIHS looks at a variety of factors in determining their safety ratings, and LA Times recently noted that auto insurance claims are a major resource for an organization that analyzes millions of crashes a year. For example, the news source reported that industry data showed a 7 percent reduction in vehicle crashes when cars were equipped with forward collision warnings. Although experts have created cutting edge tests that account for the effectiveness of collision alerts and adaptive headlights, the bulk of safety evaluations are based on the staged crashes that are often shown in driver education classes and advertisements. Rear-end crashes, for instance, are responsible for 31 percent of car-related injuries.
The cost of comprehensive testing
Crashing hundreds of vehicles a year is not a cheap endeavor. The LA Times revealed that the IIHS spends an annual average of $3 million to complete the research necessary to make their yearly safety ratings possible. But, with industry leaders responding by putting safer cars on the road, many drivers would agree that this price is certainly worth the results.