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Buying a new car? Safety ratings and tests can help keep you safe

Vehicles today are designed to help keep people safe in crashes. One of the things you should look for if you intend to buy a new vehicle is the side-impact rating.

Many collisions that happen involve side impacts. A crash in an intersection, for example, could result in a T-bone crash. A highway crash from one vehicle leaving its lane too soon could cause one, too.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does require side-impact protection in new vehicles today. Not all older vehicles have the protection offered by new technology, which is why you should invest some time into researching the protections available in any vehicle you want to purchase.

What should you look for in a new vehicle's safety ratings?

A new vehicle will have a 5-star test rating. It would be best to get a vehicle with as many stars as possible, since these are deemed safer than others.

The NHTSA did add a side pole crash test scenario, which rates safety when colliding with a pole from the side at around 20 mph. A small, adult-female dummy is used for the test.

Keep in mind that safety ratings are compiled using data from crash tests using standardized materials. For example, the test looks at how crashes impact an average-sized male in the driver's seat and small, adult female in the front passenger seat.

Dummies always wear their seat belts for testing, and the crashes that take place mimic collisions between two vehicles of similar sizes.

Why is all of this important? It tells you that these ratings aren't perfect. You can find a safe, quality vehicle, but the star rating doesn't necessarily guarantee your safety.

What kinds of driver assistance technology are recommended today?

If you want to be safer in your vehicle, some recommended pieces of technology include:

  • Lane departure warnings
  • Rearview video systems
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Collision warning
  • Side-impact air bags

These pieces of technology, when combined with the information that the NHTSA now has available about safety and test ratings, can help you stay safer after you pick the right vehicle for yourself and your family. A good vehicle with the right safety technology can help you stay safer if another vehicle collides with you.

If you are hit, you could still suffer injuries, but the hope is that they will be less severe than if these safety precautions weren't in place.

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