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Safety Research & Insurance Tips
Car safety and crash test ratings

(see below for INSURANCE resources)


Vehicle safety ratings based on several sources of data

By Bill Roebuck

For many drivers, a vehicle's safety rating is much more important than its design or its pricetag. Generally, it's up to the consumer to dig out the research results to find out which models are the safest in crashes. To help readers, we've compiled a list of key safety data below.

SCORE (Statistical Combination of Risk Elements)

The SCORE index comes from Informed For Life, a non-profit organization focused on improving the usefulness of vehicle safety information as a public service. Fatality rates for some vehicles are more than 20x higher than for others. SCORE is a simple look-up display for the vehicle ratings and risk index of 2003 through current year models that combines NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) ratings, plus vehicle weight, to derive a single SCORE for every vehicle. Look up a vehicle's SCORE using the display below or get background information at
See the risk index SCORE for your vehicle
After reviewing the NHSTA specifications, readers should also take into consideration the following points, provided courtesy of the Informed for Life organization:
An NHSTA 4-Star rating is typically 3 times the risk versus 5 Stars
56% of all vehicles manufactured after 2006 received 5 Stars (+ 40% received 4 Stars)
Side impact star ratings EXCLUDE head injury risk
Another independent agency (IIHS) may have crash tested this same vehicle in a different manner with different results. (IIHS does evaluate head injury due to side impact.)
Light-weight vehicles experience approximately 2x the fatality rate versus average-weight vehicles
Side-curtain airbags (mandated for 2009) reduce side-impact fatalities by approx 45%
Electronic Stability Control or ESC (mandated for 2012) reduces rollover fatalities by approx 43%.

NHTSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) was initiated with the primary purpose of providing consumers with a measure of the relative safety potential of vehicles in frontal crashes. NCAP supplies frontal- and side- crash test results. Get details here.

The U.S.-based IIHS is an independent, nonprofit, research and communications organization funded by auto insurance companies. A major part of IIHS' current testing program is Crashworthiness Evaluations of new passenger vehicles. The principal component of each vehicle's rating is performance in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test. This test is a good measure of a vehicle's structural design. The website also features results of low-speed (bumper) crash tests, side-impact tests and head restraint tests. Get details here.

See the top safety picks for 2011, all of which feature ESC (electronic stability control). (Updated July 13, 2021)

Added July 13, 2011: Another document of interest is the IIHS report on insurance losses for four-door models from 2007-2009. It shows the best and worst vehicles in the category. Also available are links to the best/worst charts of similar information for two-door, luxury and sports models; SUVs and luxury SUVs; station wagons and minivans; and pickup trucks.

The Crash Survivors Network provides details on how cars are crash-tested.

Choose a make to watch a video of a car hitting the wall in these online crash test videos prepared by Consumer Reports magazine.

Many economical 2005 and 2006 compacts and subcompacts boast a wealth of safety features to protect their occupants. Read article here.

This Forbes magazine article used data from SCORE, IIHS and NHSTA. The least safe car for 2007 should certainly surprise you. Unsafest cars link.

Car crashes are the number one cause of death for Canadian children. However, a properly installed car seat can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by as much as 75%. Read article here. is a private, advertising based site providing detailed charts that let you search for summary crash test information by vehicle type. Get details here.

The foundation is dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries by preventing traffic crashes. Since 1947, it has funded over 90 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes. The research has been used to develop dozens of focused, high-impact educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Get details here.

Two key safety issues affect pickup trucks because of their high centre of gravity and the fact that different regulations apply to them: rollovers and crash safety. Learn more here.

This online booklet from the USAA Educational Foundation tells how to choose a safe vehicle.

These links will connect you to all the safety data available on current models, so you can make the best choice for your needs.

© TM


Saving money on insurance

Everybody wants to save money on their vehcile insurance. Here's some leads to sites that provide tips and advice on how to do it.

Proceed with caution before choosing your vehicle. If it has a bad auto insurance record, it could cost you. This publication from the Insurance Bureau of Canada illustrates how theft, collision and other claims affect the cost of your car insurance. It includes lists of the best and worst vehicles for collision, comprehensive and theft costs for all types of vehicles in Canada.

This report from the NHTSA, prepared for car dealers, gives details on the insurance ratings for vehcles based on their size category.

What to do if your car insurance is cancelled; Where to find theft and collision claim records for your vehicle; How to find the most satisfying car insurance companies to deal with.

The Consumers' Association of Canada released the Ontario results of a national study on auto insurance rates on July 19, 2005. The study also provides a detailed comparison of car insurance rates between Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

If you lend your car in Ontario, you lend your car insurance, according to Lee Romanov, president of an insurance rate comparison service based in Toronto. Other drivers of your vehicle can seriously affect your auto insurance rates. Their tickets are their problem, but their accidents are your problem.

Can you believe it could cost more to insure a Honda Civic than a new Hummer? Insider info on car insurance.

Updated July 13, 2011. © TM

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