Safest cars of 2014

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While the past few years have seen a spike in new car-safety technology, it is getting increasingly tough for cars to break into the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks category.

Cars faced the strictest safety standards ever tested in 2014 when the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated its Top Safety Picks for this model year’s vehicles.

Only 39 cars made the grade for Top Safety Pick in 2014, down from 130 in 2013, according to IIHS. This year’s ratings included an over-achieving category of “Top Safety Pick +” that was reserved mostly for cars with “front crash prevention” technology, which features warning systems and/or automatic braking systems to avoid hitting approaching cars and objects.

The small-overlap front test, introduced last year as criteria for the “plus” category, became part of the standard testing regiment for all the cars in 2014. The test examines a cars’ crash performance when about 25 percent of the car is struck, simulating a pole or a tree, or a knick from an oncoming car.

Only one minicar, the 2014 Chevrolet Spark, was chosen as a Top Safety Pick this year, compared to six in 2013. The 2014 Honda Odyssey was the only minivan to be a Top Safety Pick, compared with five minivans in 2013. Though three trucks made the Top Safety Pick lists 2013, none were on it in 2014.

Cars that placed in the TOP SAFETY PICK category were required to show “good performance in the Institute’s moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and, for the first time, good or acceptable performance in the small overlap front test,” according to an IIHS release.

Cars in the TOP SAFETY PICK+ category were tested using the same criteria, but also included at least  basic ratings for “front crash prevention.”

Subaru’s EyeSight system tested better than almost every other front crash prevention system.  Subaru earned a “Superior” ranking in its winning Legacy, Outback, and Forester models with the highest score possible. The only other car to score as high on front crash prevention was the 2014 Infiniti Q50. Subaru’s pre-collision braking system automatically stopped their cars from hitting a dummy-car at both 12 mph and 25 mph when tested by the IIHS.

The EyeSight system uses two cameras located by the rear-view mirror to sense the scene in front of the car and sound an alert and/or take action if it senses danger. In addition to automatic breaking, it features pre-collision throttle management, which reduces the throttle when a driver is accidently accelerating into something ahead. Its adaptive cruise control function can keep your car a metered distanced away from the car ahead by adjusting to the speed of traffic. The system also warns drivers when they are swaying between lanes.

Almost all of Subaru’s car models have placed as Top Safety Picks or TSP+ since 2010.

Not all of the IIHS Top Safety Picks live up to their reputation for safety. The Dodge Avenger has been on the IIHS list for Top Safety Picks since 2009, yet 2010-2012 model Avenger drivers have had some of the most insurance claims for any new vehicle in those years, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. The claim frequency for personal injury protection was 76 percent higher than the average. The claim frequency for medical payment was 78 percent higher than the average. Avenger drivers had the highest amount of claims of any 2010-2012 car models for bodily injury liability claims, at 69 percent.

Clearly the IIHS Top Safety Picks can indicate which cars rate the safest for you and your family, but it is up the individual driver to always be alert, aware, and drive safe, even if your car can help do that for you.

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