Of Interest

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The Safest and Most Dangerous Cars on the Road

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Size Does Matter

Automotive safety has seen incredible advances over the past two decades thanks to government regulations and consumer demand. Manufacturers have responded to the demand by investing heavily in safety systems research to not only build a vehicle that is more “survivable” but one that avoids accidents altogether.

When you pass a “bad accident” on the highway with twisted metal and parts scattered across the road it shouldn’t surprise you that the occupants walked away. Today’s designs channel crash energy away from the occupants and into other parts of the vehicle that are designed to absorb the impact and crumple. Passenger cabins are wrapped in heat treated boron steel cages and are packed with airbags, headrests, pretension seat-belts and other protective equipment lessening the chance of passenger injury.

By 2018 all new cars will have to have a rear facing camera, just another example of ongoing federal regulation of automotive safety. Driver “assist” packages abound using radar, cameras and thermal imaging that help drivers keep in their lane, automatically maintain spacing, see in the dark and avoid backing into objects. The autonomous car is not that far off in the future.

Best and Worst Performance

Even with all the advances in safety there still has to be a “best” and a “worst” performer. One way the insurance industry measures safety performance is to look at cars that are involved in an accident and compare claims paid for personal injury and medical payments of the various makes and models. The results of the last survey reveal (not surprisingly) that big trumps small. Here’s what the comparison shows:

Least Safe Vehicles

  1. Fiat 500
  2. Kia Rio 5
  3. Toyota Corolla L
  4. Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
  5. Mercedes-Benz CL600

You might be surprised to see a Mercedes listed but the CL600 has a 504 hp V12 engine and can go 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. That should give you a hint as to why it’s on this list.

Most Safe Vehicles

  1. GM Sierra 1500
  2. Porsche Cayenne
  3. GMC Yukon
  4. GMC Sierra 2500 SLE
  5. GMC Terrain SLE1

Can you imagine the results when a Kia Rio goes head on with a GMC Yukon?

Two Factors in the Making of a Dangerous Vehicle

Vehicles typically earn a dangerous reputation for two reasons. The first is poor design by the manufacture like the old Ford Pinto and Chevy Corvair. A recent example is Toyota’s still unexplained sudden acceleration problem that cost the company over $1 billion in fines and lawsuits. GM may not be too far behind with its faulty ignition design.

The second factor is bad behavior by drivers. Bad behavior can take a perfectly safe car and turn it into a killing machine. More people have died in Corvettes (followed closely by Mustangs) than any other vehicle. Neither the Corvette nor the Mustang have had design flaws but both are incredibly powerful. In the control of an inexperienced driver, or a driver under the influence, these “safe” cars can become unguided missiles.

So today the highways are significantly safer and there is more technology to keep us safe. But the prime driver of safety remains the person behind the wheel

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