Although getting behind the wheel of a car will always entail an essential element of danger, the number of fatalities caused by car crashes over the years has been declining. In 2006, Georgia experienced over 1,600 fatalities due to car crashes yet in 2011, 1,223 car accidents resulted in fatalities, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia.
Many believe this decline in fatalities is due to the fact that cars are actually getting safer. Around the world, automobile companies and governments are making improvements in vehicle safety at an accelerated pace. One of the most influential forces used to heighten safety standards for cars has been litigation and the civil justice system.
The litigation and media attention surrounding cars like the Chevy Cobalt and the Ford Pinto have revealed previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses within various models of cars. As a result, these cases are deterring manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the goal of greater profits.
Safety Tests Promoting Improved Crashworthiness
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts a test to determine the crashworthiness of cars -- judging cars for their roof strength and head restraint, side protection, front crash prevention, etc. Over the past few years, IIHS has updated its safety-rating programs, particularly in trying to encourage car manufacturers to improve results in small overlap front crashes.
In 2012, IIHS added a frontal crash test to its regimen that replicates what happens when a vehicle’s left-front corner hits a stationary object or another vehicle not head on. IIHS researchers acknowledged three strategies for enhancing occupant protection in small overlap front crash test:
- Strengthen the occupant compartment
- Add new structures to engage the barrier
- Create an additional load path for crash forces
The Safest Cars for 2015
IIHS’s new safety report shows models ranging from affordable to luxury cars are safer than ever. The list of models with the lowest death rates illustrates just how much vehicles have improved. Although eight years ago no models existed with zero fatalities, today nine vehicles exist that had no driver deaths during the years studied.
In addition, last year only 39 vehicles earned the Institute’s top awards of Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick, but this year, over 70 car models earned these awards. Toyota, Honda, and Subaru had the most amount of models that scored in these categories -- proving these cars are getting safer. In 2012, the Toyota Prius v was one of the worst performers ever in the small overlap test, whereas the 2015 model for Toyota Prius v performed well all-around. The Honda CR-V also had some drastic modifications since 2012’s marginal rating, adjusting the vehicle’s front-end structure, occupant compartment, and restraint system for the 2015 model.
Some of the safest cars based on IIHS’s 2015 test for the small car division include:
- Mazda 3
- Subaru Impreza
- Toyota Prius
- Subaru XV Crosstrek
The safest midsized cars include:
- Chrysler 200
- Subaru Legacy
- Subaru Outback
- Toyota Camry
- Toyota Prius v