Car Roofs Getting Much Safer According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Tests

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s TOP SAFETY PICK award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. The winners offer a higher level of protection than federal safety standards require.

Last year the Institute toughened criteria for TOP SAFETY PICK by adding a requirement that all qualifiers must earn a good rating for performance in a roof strength test to assess protection in a rollover crash. This toughened criteria lead manufacturers to improve roof strength so that whereas at the beginning of the 2010 model year only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, the number has now grown to 68. Vehicles rated good for rollover crash protection have roofs more than twice as strong as the current federal standard requires.

The Institute estimates that such roofs reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent compared with roofs meeting the minimum requirement. Side-impact protection has also improved. When the Institute began conducting in 2003, many cars failed the side test.

Now most vehicles pass the test due to stronger side structures and standard side airbags that protect the head and torso. Institute research shows that the risk of dying in a crash is sharply lower for people in vehicles that earn good ratings in the Institute’s side test. Rear crash protection and seat/head restraints are also rated using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can’t be positioned to protect many people.

Safety equipment is increasingly standard. Ninety-two percent of 2011 model cars, 94 percent of SUVs, and 56 percent of pickups have standard head and torso side airbags. Electronic stability control is standard on 92 percent of cars, 100 percent of SUVs, and 72 percent of pickups. Top Safety Pick winners must have electronic stability control available.

According to the Institute, more than 12,000 people died in frontal crashes of passenger vehicles in 2009 in the United States, more than 6,000 died in side impacts, and more than 8,000 died in rollovers, many of which also involved a front or side impact. Rear-end crashes usually aren’t fatal but result in a large proportion of injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two-thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes. Sixty-six vehicles earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s TOP SAFETY PICK award for 2011, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs, and a minivan.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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