The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently announced their 2009 Top Safety Picks, with 72 vehicles earning the honor. (Interestingly, Chrysler is the only major automaker without a single Top Safety Pick.)
That’s twice the number of winners in 2008 and three times as many as in 2007. The IIHS chalks up the huge increases to automakers making strides in how their vehicles perform in front, side and rear crashes. New cars also have improved seat and head restraint design and offer electronic stability control as a means to avoid accidents.
All this new safety technology appears to be paying off, as estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show the number of people killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. this year is expected to be the lowest on record (recordkeeping began in 1966).
The question is will those numbers continue to decrease as the size of new vehicles also decreases? It’s logical to assume that the bigger the car, the safer its occupants are. I was once at a Hummer dealership and the salesman told me that to date, no one had ever been killed inside a Hummer as a result of a car accident. While this is great news for a Hummer owner, it’s not so great for someone who gets into an accident with one!
Considering how many different sizes of cars are on the roads, it’s logical to assume that the heavier ones provide more protection than the smaller ones, regardless of what technology is used. Even though a 1966 Cadillac DeVille has no airbags or emergency stability control, I’ll bet a lot of people would choose to be encased in its solid steel body in an accident, even over a 2009 fully loaded Civic with the newest safety gear.
As cars become laden with safety features and traffic deaths are at an all-time low, it’s apparent that something must be working right. My bet is that the newest accident-avoidance features, such as ESC, must be paying off by resulting in avoidance of accidents in the first place.
We want to know: Have the latest safety features protected you in an accident or helped you avoid one?