02 – Vehicle Safety: Buying a Safer Car with Joseph Nolan, IIHS

October 3, 2013 | Posted in Car Safety, Podcast Episodes

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Joseph Nolan, Vice President for Vehicle Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), speaks with me about what you can do to buy a safer car.  While the IIHS is involved in a wide range of highway safety activities, one of their best known is their ratings developed from car crash testing.  Five types of crashes are done by the IIHS, with each scored separately:

  • Moderate overlap front
  • Small overlap front (less of the car is impacted than in the moderate overlap)
  • Side
  • Roof strength, and
  • Head restraints.

IIHS Safety Rating for Cars

Once a car is put through each crash test, it receives an overall rating: Poor, Marginal, Acceptable or Good.  A vehicle that receives a “Good” rating in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests is deemed a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.  If the car rates a “Good” in 4 out of 5 tests and “Acceptable” in the 5th, then it gets a Top Safety Pick + (Plus).

Safer Car

IIHS Vehicle Research Center

The IIHS started doing crash testing in the early 90s with one crash test, the moderate overlap front.  At that time, many of the cars were rated either “Marginal” or “Poor.” Today, nearly all cars earn “Good” ratings in this crash test.  As each new crash test has been added, car manufacturers have responded, designing safer cars in each attribute.  Receiving the IIHS Top Safety Pick is now a valued recognition of the work done by car manufacturers and it is often included in their car advertising.  To see the ratings of cars or trucks, go to www.IIHS.org.  The Institute has a YouTube channel where you can watch many of the crashes. In the very near future, The Institute will also be examining and comparing a variety of the new crash avoidance technologies.

Safer Car App

Before my conversation with Mr. Nolan, I talk about the NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating Program, which provides information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by Federal Law.  One star is the lowest rating, with five stars being the highest.  To find the ratings for your car, check out the website: SaferCar.gov.  There, you can enter the make, model, and year and get a summary of how your car did in the safety tests.

Safer Car App

NHTSA’s SaferCar App

Also, to help keep in touch with the various ratings done by NHTSA while out shopping for a new car, you can download the SaferCar app.  It is available on iTunes, with an Android version currently in development.  This app allows you to check out the various car ratings from your iPhone or iPad, see if there have been any recalls, or file a complaint. The app even provides help in installing a child safety seat.

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