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What makes a vehicle safe?

The National Safety Council reports there are an estimated 10 million auto accidents each year, resulting in over a million injuries and as many as 40,000 deaths. A key factor in the difference between walking away from a wreck and sustaining fatal injuries is the safety of the vehicles involved. The safer the vehicle, the more likely it is that the passengers will either sustain relatively minor injuries or will come away unscathed.

So, how do you know if your vehicle is a safe one?

NHTSA and IIHS ratings

Two major organizations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are responsible for testing vehicles and assigning crash safety ratings. The NHTSA is actually a government agency, while the IIHS is a private collective funded by major insurance companies. Such points as head-on collisions, front-end collision, side-impact collision and rear-end collision are all tested vigorously before ratings are assigned.

Each organization has their own ratings system, and assigns those according to their own testing protocol. The NHTSA has a five-star system (with five stars being the highest safety rating), while the IIHS simply designates particularly well-performing vehicles as "Top Safety Picks." The IIHS standards are considered more rigorous than those of the NHTSA, and the IIHS also tests vehicles for such modern accident-avoidance and crashworthiness features as:

•· Driving assistance

•· Blind spot warnings

•· Automatic emergency braking assistance

•· The inclusion of Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) systems in the vehicle

•· Headlight effectiveness

•· Crush strength of the vehicle's roof (in the event of a rollover wreck)

Another good resource for safety information is Consumer Reports. Each year Consumer Reports publishes a monthly issue devoted to automobiles (including SUV's). If you don't have or cannot locate a copy of the magazine, you can visit

Finding the highest performing, safest, and newest vehicle in your price range could very well be the key difference in the event of a wreck. Regardless of the safety features included in your own vehicle, serious injuries are always possible. Should you be injured by a distracted driver, drunk driver, speeding driver or otherwise reckless motorist, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney.

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