Volvo lane departure warningEnlarge Photo
4) Star Ratings Don't Gauge Safety Equipment
Not all vehicles come with what safety hawks would judge to be essential safety equipment. And in the federal tests, provided a vehicle has what's legal, it doesn't affect the Overall Vehicle Score for safety.
The list of federally mandated safety features has grown over the years and this past decade, now includes side airbags in all vehicles. Electronic stability control, for instance, might be highly recommended and a proven lifesaver, but it's not yet officially required in all vehicles. It's up to you, the shopper, to make sure you get a vehicle that includes all of these essential features.
Looking ahead, we'll see greater implementation of forward collision warning and lane-departure warning systems, two advanced-tech features that the federal government has targeted as making a recognized difference in safety. For the first time, the federal government is including information about crash-avoidance technologies—and you'll see them listed when you look a vehicle up—but they're not figured into the star rating.