Finding a car that is safe is at the top of most buyer’s list of priorities. As drivers, we want to keep our loved ones safe, as well as ourselves. When most of us imagine a safe car, we think of 4x4s and large SUVs. But there are many safe cars out there that don’t fit the mould. Many smaller cars have the features required to keep you and your family safe. So what should you be looking for?

Crash Test Scores

The first thing to look for in a car when it comes to safety is its crash test scores. These are a measure of how well the car will protect you if the time comes you are hurt in a car accident. There are two major players in the crash testing industry: the IIHS and the NHTSA. The IIHS has stricter testing procedures and is tougher when it comes to scoring. And so if you’re serious about safety, pay more attention to the IIHS.

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When you review the test scores, don’t just go with the headline safety figure. Drill down into the detail and have a look where the car performed well and not so well. Some cars can come away with a high overall score but do poorly in some types of collisions. Often, vehicle manufacturers will focus on improving their front collision score. But sometimes cars don’t have excellent side-collision scores. And these are surprisingly common and deadly.

Stability Control

So what else should you look for, besides test scores? Another good feature is electronic stability control. What exactly is this? Essentially it’s a computer-driven system that keeps the car under control. It’s a bit like anti-lock braking. But it works dynamically on all four wheels in the corners and when accelerating too. The idea is to adjust the speed at which the wheels are turning to keep the car from skidding. Stability control is a racing technology. But it’s found its way into consumer cars because it’s effective at preventing cars from getting out of control. About half of all accidents involve only one vehicle. Think about how many times you’ve seen a single car in a ditch. And so this technology is designed to cut the risks of driver error. If you enter a corner too fast, a car with stability control will compensate for the mistake.

Side Airbags

Frontal impacts are the most common types of impact in a car. Side impacts are the next most common. Because there isn’t much of a crumple zone with side impacts, side impacts have the highest fatality rate. Car makers, therefore, have had to find other ways to protect passengers from these types of collisions. The best way so far seems to be through the use of side airbags. Small cars that come with side airbags include the Dodge Dart, the Toyota Corolla and the VW Golf. SUVs and crossovers that come with side airbags include the Volvo XC60, the Ford Edge, and the Ford Explorer. Mercedes GLK made since 2011 also come with side airbags.

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