Live Healthier: Buy a Safer Vehicle

The Car Family

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Want to live longer? Don’t buy a large SUV or pick-up truck or used vehicle without a full compliment of safety features. Buy a new family sedan which weighs at least 3000 pounds. You don’t have to shy away from high performance machinery, but at the very least take a professional driving course with it. Finally, do your homework. In other words, this article could be the most important reading you do short of a pre-nuptial agreement or that Nigerian email offering to share the wealth.

The crash statistics are overwhelming. In 2005 there were nearly 45,000 people killed in vehicle accidents or about one every 12 minutes in 2005. The majority of these accidents occurred within ten miles of the home and driver negligence was the cause. The most dangerous accident is a side impact one, which is the most common cause of injury. Side airbags are a must. You might try to lobby for all vehicles to have bumpers the same height so in side crashes the bumper does not override the steel beams in the door. Data reveals that driving while using a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk so get a hands free unit. In addition, remember that large Hummers, Lincoln Navigators, and Ford Excursions all weigh over 6000 pounds and are illegal to drive on many residential streets and some older highways so owning one could be safer because they might not legally be able to leave the owner’s garage.

So what is the safest vehicle? There are four factors to consider. First, understand that the larger the vehicle that more difficult it is to control. Large SUVs and pick-up trucks may be safer in an accident with a smaller vehicle, but are much more likely to be involved in a single vehicle accident due to loss of control. SUVs and pickups have more than double the chance of rolling over, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, and have a higher fatality rate than cars in the same weight category. While large SUVs and pickups may be at an advantage in multi-vehicle accidents, they are involved in over 40 percent of all fatal single vehicle accidents. Putting an inexperienced driver in large SUV is an act of faith rather than logic.

Next, do your homework. There are crash test scores generated by the government and insurance industry that must be checked and are readily available online. Following that buy every safety related option. Saab and Volvos, for example, come with whiplash protection systems. Cadillac, for one, offers lane departure warnings and a system that warns the driver when a vehicle is in the vehicle’s blind spot. Mercedes and others offer knee airbags and several manufacturers offer side air bags for rear passengers. And make certain you order the electronic stability control that helps prevent rollovers.

Finally, look for the vehicle’s ability to avoid accidents. Good handling, braking, and visibility are vital. The latter should not be neglected as the rise in ownership of SUVs has resulted in over 2400 cases of children being run over or backed over.

With all that in mind here is a list of vehicles that offer excellent safety features, have good crash scores and good handling. Be advised that not all the 2007 vehicles have been evaluated and so this data is based on earlier models. Our recommendation for the “healthiest” cars in the large car category are the Acura RL Audi A6, Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300 C/Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES 300, Lincoln Town Car and LS, and the Volvo S80, wagons and convertibles. The Lexus would be our choice here, but the Ford is a very good family vehicle. The Volvo wagons are ideal replacements for SUVs and are loaded with safety features.

For midsized cars the Audi again is a good choice as well as the Acura TL, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Element, Subaru Legacy and the underrated Saab 9-3. The Saab convertible is as safe a drop top as they make. Subaru’s Impreza is also a good small car. Subaru’s Forester and Honda’s CR-V were also cited. The Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima also had high scores. Of these we like the Saab best with its perky performance and handling, but the gas mileage and roomy interior of the 2008 Accord make it attractive and the Malibu is a bargain.

Minivans from Honda, Kia, Toyota, Mazda, and Hyundai have earned top honors and there are a lot of midsized SUVs to consider. Those from Acura, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes, Saturn, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo are rated well. We always like the way the small BMW X3 handles, but the new Saturn and Ford Edge are excellent values and Kia minvan is a bargain. The Lexus RX would be the top pick in the SUV category.

Other vehicles that are worth a look are the Lexus IS, Volkswagen Jetta, Passat, and Rabbit/Golf, and the Honda Civic. The Honda is good, but if you can afford the IS go for it. On the other hand, we are thinking of ordering the Jetta diesel wagon for our fleet next year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published its list of death rates by vehicles collected over four years. The safest were the Chevrolet Astro, Infiniti G35, BMW 7 Series, Toyota 4Runner, Audi A4, Mercedes E and M-Class, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Lexus ES 330, Lexus RX 330, Toyota Sequoia, Honda Pilot, and BMW X5. The highest death rates were recorded for those in a Chevrolet Blazer, Acura RSX, Nissan 350Z, Kia Spectra, Pontiac Sunfire, Kia Rio, Chevrolet Cavalier, and Mitsubishi Eclipse, among others. Note that all the latter models have been replaced or redone since this data was published.

Family conference: The top choices from The Car Family in selecting a safe family car would be the small Saab, large Volvo sedan and wagon, BMW, Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru, Lexus RX and ES, Audi sedans, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. We have high hopes that the new Volkswagens will soon be added to this mix.

A healthier life style could be as simple as exercising your credit line.

Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety

http://www.iihs.org/

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/

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