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Car Safety

Car safety covers body structures, accident-avoidance systems, occupant protection, and all the associated technologies that help save those inside (and outside) the vehicle from harm. The subject is generally grouped into two areas: active safety and passive safety. Active safety refers to features or attributes that...
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Car safety covers body structures, accident-avoidance systems, occupant protection, and all the associated technologies that help save those inside (and outside) the vehicle from harm.

The subject is generally grouped into two areas: active safety and passive safety. Active safety refers to features or attributes that might allow you to avoid an accident; passive safety refers to features or attributes that help protect occupants during (or right after) a crash.

In the scope of automotive history, the focus on safety is a relatively recent one. Fifty years ago, relatively minor accidents could leave occupants mortally wounded; and even a decade ago, occupant safety wasn’t nearly the priority that it is for today’s new-car shoppers.

In the U.S., crash-test programs have driven occupant protection rapidly since the 1990s. While the federal New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) has overseen crash-testing of vehicles since 1979, the insurance-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also been crucial. It began crash-testing and rating new vehicles in 1995. Since then it’s added side impact, rear impact (seat), and roof strength tests, as well as a new small-overlap frontal test. In order to provide more useful information for shoppers, the NCAP tests and ratings were revised in 2010.

Frontal-impact occupant airbags were first introduced in the 1970s, but they didn’t become widely offered in luxury cars until the 1980s and most mass-market models until the 1990s (they were required by 1998). Side-impact airbags were introduced in luxury cars in the 1990s, then made it into most mass-market models by the middle of this past decade; they were required by 2009, with a later phase-in of head-protecting airbags.

Electronic stability control has been another critical life-saving feature—especially in reducing the number of rollover-related fatalities. And in more recent years, a host of active technologies—ranging from lane-departure systems to blind-spot systems to those that help warn if you’re drowsy—have added to driver safety. Some even help brake the vehicle or nudge it back on course.

In this age of more rakish designs—and with a much wider range of vehicle sizes, shapes, and packages than in the past—outward visibility has become an important issue. In some vehicles, camera systems help make up for this in parking, although visibility still might make lane changes more difficult. Additionally, the way in which a vehicle steers, brakes, and even accelerates can play a role in safety, as well as how it rides over certain road surfaces.

Driver distraction remains one of the top safety issues of the day, which has led to much debate over whether advanced vehicle interfaces that allow easier, integrated hands-free communication increase or decrease overall safety.

In the future, so-called driverless car projects could permit enhanced safety by essentially automating the act of driving while in gridlock or on a commute.

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Both the 2014 Subaru Impreza and the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek have earned the top nod from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The new results apply to both the sedan and hatchback versions of the Impreza—and to the XV Crosstrek, which is only offered as a hatchback. In the... read more

November 6, 2013 by  -
 
2014 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - small overlap IIHS crash test

2014 Mercedes M-Class Is A Top Safety Pick+

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2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco

2014 Toyota Corolla: 'Marginal' In Critical Frontal Crash Test

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2014 Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback, Legacy Top New Forward Collision Prevention Ratings

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2014 Kia Sorento

2014 Kia Sorento Earns NHTSA Five-Star Safety Rating

The redesigned three-row, seven-passenger 2014 Kia Sorento crossover has earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA... read more September 24, 2013 by 


 
2014 Lexus IS 250

2014 Lexus IS Earns NHTSA Five-Star Crash Rating

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The Worst New-Car Features Of 2013

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The Best New-Car Features Of 2013

Some of the best ideas need no explanation, and many are relatively simple—things that make you ask, why didn't anyone come up with this before? That’s probably... read more September 3, 2013 by  12


 
Cadillac's Super Cruise system undergoing testing.

GM's Super Cruise Puts (Almost) Autonomous Cars On The Road By 2020

Hot on the heels of last week's announcement that Nissan would bring autonomous cars to showrooms within seven years comes word from General Motors that it plans to offer its... read more September 3, 2013 by  0


 
2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite

2014 Honda Odyssey Earns First Minivan IIHS Top Safety Pick+

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NHTSA Tesla Model S crash test (Image: crashnet1 Youtube screen grab)

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2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Investigated For Fire Risk

Jeep's Grand Cherokee nameplate has been drawing lots of media attention lately -- not all of it good. The Grand Cherokee found itself at the center of a contentious recall... read more August 26, 2013 by  0


 
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

2014 Chevrolet Silverado, 2014 GMC Sierra Set New Standard For Truck Safety

Yesterday, we told you about the Tesla Model S -- a car so safe, it broke the equipment that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses to gauge safety. General... read more August 21, 2013 by  0


 
2013 Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S: So Safe, It Broke NHTSA's Testing Equipment

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2014 Kia Forte  -  rated POOR in IIHS small overlap frontal impact test

Which Small Cars Are Safest? New IIHS Test Helps Answer That

Not sure which small-car model is best for you? If safety is one of your priorities you might want to give the Honda Civic, or perhaps the Dodge Dart, a boost on your list of... read more August 7, 2013 by  2


 
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