Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important decisions a consumer can make. There are many factors people use in deciding which car to purchase, including price, seating capacity, and appearance. However, as a personal injury lawyer that has handled many serious auto accident cases, I suggest vehicle safety should be the number one consideration used in purchasing a new vehicle. For those interested in automobile safety, this article discusses the safest 2012 cars that can be purchased based on information obtained from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Forbes Magazine, along with the latest safety features equipped in many new vehicles. Fortunately, the safest cars are not necessarily the most expensive, as there are many vehicles under $30,000 that meet the highest safety standards.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 32,885 people died in auto accidents in 2010. Although 30,000 plus deaths is a lot, this statistic represents a drop of 2.9 percent from 2009 fatalities. Improved automobile safety or crash worthiness is a major reason for this drop. Nonetheless, automobile related fatalities continue to be the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of three and 34. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the costs of medical care and productivity lost from vehicle crashes resulting in personal injury or death is [over $99 billion.]
There are many ways to avoid a fatal auto accidents--some of which are reasonable and while others are not. Selecting a safe vehicle is one way. Indeed, a recent Consumer Reports survey revealed that 65% of respondents said vehicle safety was their top priority among all purchase considerations. For women, the number was 74%.
To determine how well a vehicle protects a vehicle in a crash or crash worthiness, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS rates vehicles as good, acceptable, marginal or poor. These ratings are based on high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and evaluations of seat/head restrains for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. To receive the IIHS's top safety pick, the vehicle must earn good ratings in all four test areas.
For 2012, IIHS has identified its top safety picks for the following vehicles:
Fiat 500 built after July 2011; Ford Fiesta; Honda Fit; Nissan Versa sedan; and Toyota Yaris hatchback (only 4 door models).
Chevrolet Cruze; Chevrolet Sonic; Chevrolet Volt; Ford Focus; Honda Civic 4-door; Honda CR-Z; Honda Insight; Hyundai Elantra; Kia Forte (only sedan models); Kia Soul; Lexus CT 200h; Mazda 3; Mini Cooper Countryman; Mitsubishi Lancer (except Ralliart and Evolution); Nissan Cube; Nissan Leaf; Scion tC, Scion xB, Scion xD; Subaru Imprezza; Toyota Corrola; Toyota Prius; Toyota Prius c; Volkswagen Golf (only 4-door models); and Volkswagen GTI (only 4-door models).
Midsize Moderately Priced Cars
Audi A3; Buick Verano; Cheverolet Malibu; Cheverolet Malibu Eco (2013 models); Chrysler 200 (only 4-door models); Dodge Avenger; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord (4-door models); Hyundai Sonota; Kia Altima; Subaru Legacy; Subaru Outback; Toyota Camry; Toyota Prius v; Volkswagen Jetta sedan; Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen; Volkswagen Passat; and Volvo C30.
Midsize Luxury/Near Luxury Cars
Acura TL (built after September 2011); Acura TSX; Audi A4; BMW 3 series (only sedans); Lincoln MKZ; Mercedes C class; and Volkswagen CC (2012-13 models (except 4-wheel drive V6); and Volvo S60.
Large Family Cars
Buick LaCrosse; Buick Regal; Chrysler 300; Dodge Charger; Ford Focus (2012-13 models); Hyundai Azera; and Toyota Avalon.
Large Luxury Cars
Audi A6; BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8); Cadillac CTS (only sedan models); Hyundai Equus; Hyundai Genesis; Infinity M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel driver); Lexus GS (2013 models); Lincoln MKS (2012-13 models); Mercedes E class 2-door; Mercedes class 4-door; Saab 9-5; and Volvo S80.
Lincoln MKS; Honda CR-V; Hyundai Tucson; Jeep Patriot (with option side torso airbags); Kia Sportage; Mazda CX-5 (2013 models); Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; Subaru Forester; and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Chevrolet Equinox; Dodge Durango; Dodge Journey; Ford Edge (2012-13 models); Ford Flex (2012-13 models); GMC Terrain; Honda Pilot; and Hyundai Santa Fe; Jeep Grand Cherokee; Kia Sorento (2012-13 models); Subaru Tribeca; Toyota Highlander; and Toyota Venza.
Midsize Luxury SUVs
Acura MDX; Acura RDX (2013 models); Audi Q5; BMW X3; Cadillac SRX; Infinity EX35; Lexus RX; Lincoln MKT (2012-13 models); Mercedes GLK; Mercedes M class; Saab 9-4X; Volvo XC60; and Volvo XC90.
Buick Enclave; Chevrolet Traverse; GMC Acadia; and Volkswagen Touareg.
Chrysler Town & Country; Dodge Caravan; Honda Odyssey; Toyota Sienna; and Volkswagen Routan.
Ford F-150 (crew cab models); Honda Ridgeline; and Toyota Tundra (crew cab models).
It must be noted IIHS testing is limited to vehicles having the highest sales volume. Thus, sports cars, exotic cars, and ultra-luxury cars like Audi A8, BMW 7 series, Lexus LS and Mercedes C-class were not tested by the IIHS.
There are several safety benefits to purchasing a new car. Beginning in model year 2012, every vehicle sold in the US is required to have electronic stability control. This safety feature uses brake and throttle intervention if sensors detect wheel slippage to help prevent the vehicle from fishtailing out of control in a sudden or emergency handling maneuver. According to IIHS data, this lowers the risk of a deadly car crash by 33 percent and reduces the risk of a single roll over crash by 73 percent. In addition, many new cars will be equipped with additional safety features like blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems and collision warning/avoidance systems. Some new vehicles will also have adaptive high-intensity-discharge headlamps that swivel in the direction of a turn to help provide lighting through curves and/or automatically switch between low and high beams to avoid blinding oncoming motorists. The newest backup cameras in some vehicles will also provide improved views to the left and right of a vehicle or even 360-degree images surrounding the vehicle to help the driver avoid running into a pedestrian or obstacle. This safety feature is particularly important around small children who, as many know, may unknowingly place themselves directly behind a vehicle that is attempting to back up. Lastly, some ultra-high-end vehicles will come equipped with night vision, which displays high-tech infrared views of the road ahead. Night vision extends a drivers view further than headlamps and alerts the driver to the presence of pedestrians or wild life that may be encountered down the road.
Forbes, The Safest Cars For 2012, January 20, 2012.
Insurance Highway Safety Institute, Top Safety Picks 2012.