Driving a safe car or truck has many advantages, including peace of mind for the driver and owner, lower 2023 auto insurance rates, and smaller likelihood of damage or accident in the event of a crash. While consumers select vehicles for many different reasons, purchasing a vehicle is a long term and important purchase, and investing time in learning about NHTSA safety is a wise decision. The latest designs and technological improvements help reduce the number of fatalities with substantial exterior and interior improvements. Typically, heavier cars and trucks are safer to drive than lighter vehicles.
Self-driving vehicles are becoming more popular, but are still not widely-accepted, or considered safe enough to mass produce. Although they are not the deadliest cars, additional research is needed to increase their popularity. ADS (Automated Driving Systems) with their driver assistance technologies (radar, cameras, and sensors) are improving each year. Fully autonomous vehicles, with optional driver control, are rapidly becoming a reality. Perhaps in the future, they will regularly receive five-star safety ratings. Tesla includes "Autopilot" on all of their vehicles, which features vision processing and eight external cameras.
The safety of a car is divided into two categories: prevention of accidents, and ability to survive a crash. Weighing and considering these options is an important part of the buying process, particularly for newer drivers or persons transporting other drivers. And of course, these two factors will greatly influence the rate that an insurer charges for vehicles. The safer the car, the lower the insurance costs. And sometimes, the difference is substantial. SUVs are now considered very safe mid-sized options for individuals and families. With advanced breaking capability and lane-changing warnings (standard equipment in many models), along with better understanding of crumple zones and rear view cameras, the number of reported injuries and fatalities is reducing for this segment.
Honda Accord 4-Door
The most recent safety ratings were all classified as "good" or "superior." The highest rated categories are front crash prevention (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian), child seat anchors, structure and safety cage, seat/head restraint geometry, collision mitigation braking system, and rear passenger injury measures. The vehicle redesign six years ago was instrumental in adding several new options. Common features include front side air bag, lane keeping assist, brake assist, traction control, and lane departure warning.
The Accord also made Car And Driver's "Editor's Choice" list and "Annual 10 Best" list. The new LED headlamps and back seat exiting alert are popular additions. The alert reminds drivers to check the back passenger seat when a back door was previously opened. The average cost of the vehicle is approximately $26,000-$38,000, depending upon the version. The LX is the least expensive and the Touring model is the most costly. Highway MPG for 2023 models is 38 for the LX 1.5T CVT and EX-L 1.5T CVT, 35 for the Sport 1.5T CVT and Sport SE 1.5T CVT, and 32 for the Sport 2.0T Auto and Touring 2.OT Auto.
The collision mitigation braking system (CMBS) is one of the most popular safety features. Brake force is evenly divided on all wheels to steadily slow the vehicle. At lower speeds, limited driver assistance is needed. The Traffic Sign Recognition System (TSR) is very effective at alerting the driver of road signs that may have been missed. This includes construction signs and many other warnings, and not just posted speed limit signs. Parking assist and a compact first aid kit are optional on some models, but very helpful. Additional standard safety features include multi-angle rearview camera, LED daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system, child-proof rear door locks, seat-belt reminders, and lower tethers and anchors for children.
An expensive luxury car, this Audi received high scores across the board in safety and accident tests. The Audi was named the Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The A-6 mid-size favorite is the offshoot of the old Audi 5000. Safety features include lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, daytime running lights, optional blind spot detection, anti-lock brakes, stability control, side impact, front impact overhead, and knee airbags, security system, and automatically-tightening seat belts. Optional features include lane keeping assist, night vision camera system, and top-view cameras. Although the vehicle is considered "high-performance," it's very fuel-efficient.
Previously, the top crash-test program in the US (NHSTA) gave it a 5-star rating (highest available) with impressive front and side collision, and rollover results. Passengers in the back set were also given superior ratings. The ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) system keeps the Audi a safe distance from other vehicles on the road, which enhances the other safety features. Specific five-star ratings were awarded in the following categories: driver's, overall front, overall side, overall rollover rating, side pole, side barrier, passenger, and side pole barrier combined.
The IIHS ratings were also mostly rated "good." Several of these ratings included structure and safety cage, passenger-side head and neck driver injury, passenger-side chest driver injury, passenger-side left and right feet driver injury, driver restraints, driver-side head and neck injury, driver-side chest injury, driver-side hip and thigh injury, side head and neck injury, side torso injury, and side pelvis and leg injury. Although the "high beam assist" helps offset limitations of the low beam headlights, the overall headlight rating was just acceptable. Vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention was rated as superior.
The Malibu is a popular and affordable midsize vehicle that is rich in safety features, including roof strength, head restraints, special seats, front crash prevention, side air bags, and a rollover sensor. The deployment of side curtain airbags before a rollover actually occurs is a very important addition to the Malibu. As expected, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are included. OnStar, teen driver mode, and "drivers confidence" packages include many advanced features, including automatic high beams, collision mitigation system, and automatic braking at low speeds.
Frontal crash ratings are considered the highest of all available ratings, and child seat anchors are very well-built. Past redesigns and recent minor tweaks have greatly improved the structure and safety cage. Front pedestrian braking operates at speeds up to 50 mph, and is a very popular and effective feature. Although it helps night-driving, the braking feature is more utilized during the day. Emergency braking can also be engaged with this system.
The small overlap front (pictured above) helps to significantly reduce the risk of significant injury at most speeds. When viewing the door frame, instrument panel, and steering wheel, the driver area is very well-protected. Front and side airbags also helped keep the occupants safer. The "Driver Confidence Package" provides numerous active safe technology items such as forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind spot monitors.
BMW 5 Series
This BMW has compact size, combined with a variety of top of the line features, making it an excellent choice for persons with safety concerns. Programmable daytime running lights and a rollover sensor that deploys air bags when a rollover is impending, are two additional popular features. There are actually seven models to choose from and all are 4-door sedans. High-strength steel and aluminum have reduced the weight of the vehicle, and outward visibility is very impressive.
Additionally, electronic stability control and knee air bags for drivers and passengers are not often found on other similar-priced cars. Even the strength of the roof is modified to protect against extremely heavy objects. The highest individual ratings were awarded to front and rear seats, rollover, side crash, and side barrier. Forward collision and lane departure warnings, along with side collision warning are impressive optional features. However, adding all of the optional features can be quite costly.
Infiniti EX 35
For those looking for more space and seats, this SUV model is also adapted with the newest safety features, including monitoring for blind spots, a common cause of accidents. As one of the best compact crossovers, it’s a fun car to drive although there is limited leg room compared to other similar vehicles and poor rear visibility is a concern. Test ratings were very high for side impact, roof strength and rear crash protection.
Six air bags, the lane departure warning system, and forward collision warning with automatic braking are very popular features. A 360-degree monitor costs extra but is useful. The vehicle is longer than previous year models and the standard 18-inch allow wheels are helpful in winter months. Although this vehicle is classified as a small station wagon, and only older model years are available, it still makes our list.
This vehicle holds higher interest for those looking for a midsize car with all the safety features of many other vehicles. With bold colors, it offers a contemporary look with classic safety. Often, this vehicle is selected over the BMW and Audi for more budget-oriented buyers. It's fun to drive and is priced less than many of its similar European competition. In fact, the Volvo S60 is one of the finest luxury vehicles that costs less than $40,000.
Nearly all of the crash test results receive a 5-star rating (the highest) including front, side, rear impacts, along with the risk of a rollover. Also impressive were the IIHS ratings for roof strength, rear crash protection and head restraints.
The top winner for a family is the 7-seat Honda Odyssey, named the Best Minivan for Families by the U.S. News Best Cars for Families Award. This car has all the safety features that will please parents while providing enough room for the entire family. It gets great gas mileage and holds its resale value well. And although many Odyssey vehicles have been previously recalled for fuel leaks that could lead to a fire, we are still keeping them on our list. The Highway Loss Data Institute awards "superior" crashworthiness ratings in the following categories: small overlap (driver side), moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, head restraints and seats, ease of use of latch, and front crash prevention.
The "LaneWatch" provides a much broader view than a typical passenger-side window, and the "Blind Spot Information System" is a great early detection system. However, it is only available on the Touring Elite model. Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) alerts the driver (at speeds of 45-90 mph with no turn signal) if suddenly veering towards the side of the road or highway. The Odyssey is often a popular choice, when comparing to its competitors, the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona, and Dodge Grand Caravan.
What Is The Safest Midsize Car To Drive?
Although larger cars and SUVS are generally safer than smaller cars, substantial progress has been made in the last few decades. Heavier and larger vehicles will push other vehicles back during an impact. Bigger crush zones and hoods help minimize the effects of an accident. Many midsize vehicles are utilizing new technology to improve their safety. The vehicles listed below are several of the safest in the midsize category.
Toyota Camry 4-door
Honda Accord 4-door
Kia K5 4-door
Nissan Maxima 4-door
Suburu Legacy 4-door
Suburu Outback 4-door
Mazda 6 4-door
Chevrolet Malibu 4-door
Volkswagen Jetta 4-door
Insurance Institute For Highway Safety List
Along with our research, shown below are the IIHS choices for the "safest vehicles":
Toyota Prius Prime
BMW 5 Series
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Hyundai Elantra GT
Safety is determined through a battery of tests designed to simulate what cars might go through in dangerous conditions. A frontal crash test involves the vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour and slamming into a barrier. What researchers are interested in during this test is what happens to the dummies inside the car. No…not those types of dummies! These dummies aren’t alive! But the information they are able to share, saves lives and reduces injuries each year. Upgraded sensors help provide more accurate data. "Senior" dummies are often utilized to replicate the movements of older drivers and passengers.
A side crash test simulates a common car accident by creating a scenario similar to a small truck or SUV impacting the side of a car. A rear impact test is also interested in determining safety and injury to vehicle passengers. This test examines a vehicle's reaction to an impact from behind in order to measure the likelihood of a whiplash. Improved technology and test-interpretation reduces fatalities. Car manufacturers can also spend more time and devote more assets in areas that will save the most lives.
Finally, a rollover protection test does not use dummies, and instead focuses on crushing the roof of the vehicle. To pass this test with a solid rating, the car must be able to withstand the pressure of four times the vehicle weight. In recent years, SUVs have made big strides on this specific test. Coupled with increased fuel efficiency, these test results are one of the reasons why SUV sales are still strong, despite some of the larger models featuring low gas mileage.
Driving a vehicle is something that most people do on a daily basis but there are risks involved that are important to remember. Especially if you live in a dangerous area with a lot of drivers or commuters on the roads at particular times of the day, a safe vehicle is one way to protect yourself in the event of a crash. Adverse weather conditions increase the likelihood of an incident or accident.
It is also important to remember what happens when someone borrows your car. Your personal coverage you carry may be different for non-family members. Medical payments may be different along with other key benefits. For example, your own personal umbrella policy may not extend to non-family members.
How Safe Are Driverless Cars?
Each year there are about 500 fatal vehicle crashes as a result of the driver becoming sick or passing out. Heart attacks, complications from diabetes, falling asleep, and seizures are four common causes. Although vehicles without drivers would eliminate these problems, will there be other unforeseen issues that create additional hazards to others? And don't forget that automated vehicles don't text or get distracted by a phone call.
There are also numerous regulatory obstacles on both the federal and state level. Although safety features such as lane departure and enhanced braking are positively received, it may be a few years (or longer) before comprehensive and uniform legislation is passed to govern this growing industry. Google initially tested vehicles in Texas and California, although a live person was present inside the vehicle. And many car manufacturers have already tested vehicles that have driven on highways.
Waymo (Google's Old Self-Driving Program) has only reported one at-fault accident in more than two million highway driving miles. All other age classes report significantly higher numbers of at-fault incidents. Surprisingly, however, the number of non at-fault occurrences (mostly with pedestrians) is very high. It's possible that completing stopping at stop signs, and staying at the speed limit is unanticipated behavior for other drivers, and causes collisions. Teenagers are involved in the highest percentage of accidents. Autonomous vehicle deployment is gaining in popularity, but more technology is needed.
Crash tests and vehicle safety ratings (courtesy of the IIHS) are certainly a factor that all drivers should consider when purchasing a new or used car. Designed after decades of experience, these crash impact tests can provide valuable information about a driver or passenger's ability to survive common crashes and the potential seriousness of injuries. You can fine-tune the purchasing of your car or truck to match the factors that are most important to you.
Every category of cars now has at least one highly-rated safety vehicle. Investing your time in evaluating options can be critical- in fact, your life may depend on it. Every few months, we provide updated results that will help you find safe vehicles to drive that meet your budget and keep your car insurance rates low. If you would like our free customized safety review on one vehicle of your choice, contact us. Our "safest vehicles on the road" list is constantly updated.