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IIHS Picks Safest Vehicles

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Member Posts: 9,372
edited March 2014 in General
Heard it on the radio news this morning and saw it online in this news item:

Safe cars: Gold and silver awards
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety chooses top picks for the first time

And the list:

Silver award
VW Jetta
VW Passat
Audi A3
Audi A4
Audi A6
Chevrolet Malibu with Optional side airbags

Gold award
Ford 500 or Mercury Montego (only with optional side airbags)
Subaru Legacy
Saab 1993
Honda Civic


  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    It should be Saab 9-3.

    Remember the caveats. Don't buy a Honda Civic and feel that you're invincible. Size and weight still matter, especially when that F-150 is heading straight toward you.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    I find it irritating that all of the news outlets are reporting these vehicles as the "10 safest cars."

    They are 10 safe cars, but they haven't tested most models so we have no idea whether these are among the safest.
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    It's amazing to see VW group not recieve the highest honors. The one thing they seem to nail is safety. Still a good showing, but not what I expected...
  • alpha01alpha01 Member Posts: 4,747
    I agree that size and weight matter. However, its interesting to note that Offset frontal impact performance is not comparable across weight classes, but Side Impact performance is. Meaning, a Civic that scores Top Honors in the Side Impact is exactly the same as a Five Hundred that scores Top Honors in the same test.

  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    No one should ever buy ANY CAR and think they are invincible. That would be idiotic.

    But it's nice to know that the Civic is the only Gold Star compact car, if you own one, like I do.

    Sad to know that all those millions of kids transported in minivans are at risk. Last week in Peoria, AZ, a Mom in a minivan had a 4 and a 5 year old in the third row in booster seats, belted in, and they were T-Boned by a Pickup. The two kids in rear seat were thrown from the car, and the 4 year old was thrown from her car seat completely and was sadly killed. I wonder if the child was belted using the adult seat belt or the harness from the booster seat? My guess is the adult belt.

    Note to parents: Please always use the harness system on your booster seat until the child completely outgrows it - it is far better than the adult seatbelt at keeping the child in the seat.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Incorrect - all current popular small and midsize cars as well as most minivans were tested, and the manufacturers were asked to offer up any large cars they believed would pass muster, since most of the latter have not yet been side tested. (The minivans not tested - from Chrysler, GM, and Kia - have side impact changes or redesigns pending.) SUVs and pickups were specifically excluded from this round of testing.
  • prosaprosa Member Posts: 280
    Interesting ... no Volvos on the list.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    I see that you are right.

    I still have trouble with the idea that an A3 is safer than an A8, a Civic is safer than an Odyssey, a Jetta is safer than a Phaeton, a Malibu is safer than any Mercedes or BMW, etc.

    The main qualifier seems to be with head restraints. Many vehicles that do great in crash testing fail because of their head restraint design. They decide some are poor based on geometry without testing them.

    They also state this:
    "This is one reason Volkswagen and Audi cars are 5 of the 10 award winners. This company has introduced 5 new designs since the 2005 model year and made the commitment to ensure that these designs perform well in Institute tests."

    I am confused, did VW design the cars to be safe or to perform well in specific tests?

    I think this is an area where the data they provide is more useful than their conclusions. I actually prefer Consumer Reports safety ratings that include accident avoidance.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    The fact that a Civic is rated Gold and an Odyssey is not rated DOES NOT MEAN a Civic is safer than an Odyssey.

    What it means is that WITHIN the "compact car" category, only the Civic (versus the other compacts) scored high enough to be rated gold.

    To compare the safety of the Odyssey to the safety of the Civic, we would need the statistics from the damage to the dummies, which they do not provide.
  • prosaprosa Member Posts: 280
    The Freakonomics crew, best known for their abortion-cuts-crime theory, claim that child safety seats have very few advantages over ordinary belts for children over age two:
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
  • prosaprosa Member Posts: 280
    The fact that a Civic is rated Gold and an Odyssey is not rated DOES NOT MEAN a Civic is safer than an Odyssey.
    What it means is that WITHIN the "compact car" category, only the Civic (versus the other compacts) scored high enough to be rated gold.

    That is correct with respect to the offset frontal impact test. For the side impact test, however, results for vehicles in different categories and of different weights can be compared.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    Well, regardless of their cute little test, here is a fact:

    Any restraint which keeps the child IN THE VEHICLE is better than having the child ejected. Children in properly installed car seats/booster seats with harnesses are FAR less likely to be thrown from the vehicle than a child using only an adult seatbelt.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Yes, I understand that, but do the people who see the headlines that these are the 10 safest cars on the market understand that?

    "Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ranks 10 safest cars"

    All Headline News:
    "The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced its picks for the 10 safest passenger cars for 2006"

    Almost all of the articles are like this.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    Read the articles. IIHS means "safe within their class."

    "Size classes

    The institute emphasizes that its gold and silver labels apply only within each vehicle class - large, mid-sized and small. Consumers should not assume that a gold-rated small car is safer than a large car that didn't get a similar designation, institute executives say."

  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Agreed, but I read the entire text of the next two articles on the Google list, and they failed to mention that info. Google gave 291 hits. Does anyone want to check the other 288?

    Also, many of the excluded cars were so because of head restraints that weren't even tested.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Maybe the advantages are only minor, but I will take them. Let someone else gamble with their kids lives based on an impromptu test by the Freakonomics crew.

    I assume their stuff is meant to make economics fun more than anything, and I do like it. However, it is dangerous for people to rely on their ideas without a full understanding of the underlying concepts.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Maybe this shows my bias, but I believe Volvo when I haven't believed other manufacturers making similar comments in the past.

    "Volvo is lagging behind its competitors," said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Institute. Other car companies with strong reputations for safety also did not have vehicles represented among the winners.

    A spokesman for Volvo denied that the company's vehicles are any less safe than the Institute's top-rated vehicles.

    "Not true," Dan Johnston, a Volvo spokesman, said of the notion that Volvo was "lagging" in safety.

    "It's just a philosophy on safety that is different from building cars to pass these kinds of tests," he said.

    The company's cars are extremely safe based on Volvo's own tests and they are built to protect occupants in real-world crashes, he said, which are more complex events than a crash test could reasonably reproduce.

    I take the Institutes comments with a grain of salt, just like when a car magazine tests the latest Japanese sports sedan and declares it a better performance vehicle than a BMW. Maybe it is just comparing limited raw numbers, but how about taken as a package?

    They keep having these "best picks" and then later say the best pick sucks because they came out with a new test. This happened first with the side impact tests and second with the rear head restraints. Why don't they finish testing before they keep coming out with this test. How many of these new "best picks" are going to stay on the list if they start doing rollover tests or something else new. Will my new "safest car" become a reject when they come out with a new test?

    How about a hypothetical situation? You are going to be in a huge potentially fatal crash of unknown origins. Do you want to be in a Malibu or a similarly sized Volvo/MB/BMW that failed to make the list?
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Member Posts: 5,525
    I would assume that the weight class applies only to frontal crash tests, NOT to side crash tests unless they choose a comparably lighter weight to crash into "lighter" vehicles (which I doubt they do).

    These are overall ratings, which combines all crash test results, so some is affected by vehicle weight, and some isn't.

    Besides, where things are determined by weight, in the end reality lies with what a particular vehicle ends up hitting. If a small vehicle is rated better than a large vehicle and both hit a wall, wouldn't less harm be done to the occupants of the smaller vehicle?
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    quote robertsmx-"Besides, where things are determined by weight, in the end reality lies with what a particular vehicle ends up hitting. If a small vehicle is rated better than a large vehicle and both hit a wall, wouldn't less harm be done to the occupants of the smaller vehicle?"-end quote

    Well, I'm not a physicist, but here's my thought on that:

    It depends on the design of the two vehicles.

    If the small vehicle does a poor job with the crumple zones and having the vehicle absorb the impact of the crash, then more crash absorption will occur by the human occupants.

    For example, take a 1976 car which is the same size and weight of a 2005 car, and have them tested in a frontal crash. Guaranteed that the 2005 car will show less damage to the occupant dummies, due to safety advances like crumple zones, etc.

    Sames goes for larger vehicles too - better absorption of force design wil mean safer result to the humans inside.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Some seat/head restraint combinations are not tested because their basic geometry is such that they cannot do well in the dynamic (crash) tests. If a head restraint is too low or too far back from the head in the first place, it cannot do well in the dynamic test, so there's no point in conducting such a test.

    Regarding minivans, they are large and heavy, plus tend to be driven more conservatively, so as whole, they do well in terms of real-world crash injuries and fatalities.

    In the IIHS tests, the Odyssey, Sienna, and Quest (all with standard side curtain airbags for 2006) score a Good in both the frontal and side tests. However, all have Marginal or Poor head restraints, so they miss out on the Top Safety Pick award.

    Some might argue this isn't such a big deal, and I agree with that to a certain extent. The front and side tests involve life and death issues, while the rear test involves "only" whiplash. However, whiplash is far more likely to occur than serious injury or death.

    I would assume that the weight class applies only to frontal crash tests, NOT to side crash tests unless they choose a comparably lighter weight to crash into "lighter" vehicles (which I doubt they do).

    The side tests all use the same impactor, so performance can be compared across weight classes. Still, you can't choose your crash in advance, so size and weight are still an important advantage in the real world. This has been proven since the 1960s.

    If a small vehicle is rated better than a large vehicle and both hit a wall, wouldn't less harm be done to the occupants of the smaller vehicle?

    Yes, if the wall or other object is truly immovable. But in the real world, you may hit a wooden fence, say, which could stop a small car cold, but be broken by the force of a large car hitting it.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    You are correct about the IIHS caveat regarding size class, but unfortunately the media may gloss over this point.

    In the same vein, there was a magazine or newspaper article a few years back where they tried to combine the various tests to come up with the "five safest vehicles" There was no caveat whatsoever regarding size and weight.

    I laughed out loud when one of the five cars was a Honda Civic!
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Nonetheless, I would feel more comfortable if they would actually prove their hypothesis that these restraints cannot do well in an actual test.

    Scientists are occasionally wrong, so it might be possible that insurance-weenies with a vested interest might be wrong on occasion too.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    I believe some were cross-checked in the dynamic test, and none did well. The head restraint has to start out high enough and close enough to the head to "catch" it early in the crash. If the head is allowed to move too far before contacting the head restraint, forces on the neck become too great.

    It's sort of like the side impact tests without side airbags -- not one single car the Institute tested without side airbags scored better than Poor. And only 2 SUVs (Wrangler and CR-V) and one van (Sienna) scored better than Poor -- Marginal for the SUVs and Acceptable for the van.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    Weight only helps you if it slows your deceleration - which it can only do if it can push the object of collision farther than a lighter car would have. (So weight is only a major factor in two-vehicle collisions.)

    Against an immobile object like a wall, weight doesn't help you... if it's truly rigid. If a heavy car crunches the wall in a few extra inches, you've gained an advantage. But how the car crumples will make much more of a difference, and body on frame trucks have trouble with that.

    There are also "the little things" which companies like Volvo are better at than anyone else. They might be more important; many fatal crashes are going to kill you no matter what you're in, but lesser crashes could disable you for life or just leave bruises depending on the car.
    Things like the brake pedal pushing two feet up (ouch!), or getting your kneecaps busted, or your arms flung by an airbag through a window.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    I guess my question is:

    Are these the ten cars (within their size classes) that you would choose if you made the list?
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Member Posts: 7,160
    the 3 major Japanese makers and Hyundai.

    Did none of them see this change in emphasis coming? Normally ( still ) very safe vehicles are being lumped along with the Sunfire/Cavalier as potential deathtraps. This type of press is sure to create an immediate reaction positively. This is good for us the consumers. The IIHS is normally out for the safety of the occupants in order to reduce losses for its principals.

    But did HonYotaNiss not see this coming? Or, if they did was it a production/cost issue to leave the current models as is and add the new technology to the new iterations beginning with the Camry in spring '07?

    The ones that tested the best are the newest Fords and the newest GM's; Fusion, Milan, etc I assume are too new to have been tested.

  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Member Posts: 7,160
    I take the Institutes comments with a grain of salt, just like when a car magazine tests the latest Japanese sports sedan and declares it a better performance vehicle than a BMW.

    You must also look at the larger picture as well. When the IIHS picks on Volvo for instance and Toyota and Honda as well they are speaking for their constituents ( Allstate, USAA, GEICO, etc. ). They have no reason to be politically correct or to worry about hurt feelings. They are not a governmental agency that has to worry about political pressure.

    If the Insurance Companies want to push Volvo, Toyota, etc. all they have to do is sic their pitbull ( IIHS ) on them in the press. Consumers hear this and all hell breaks loose in the Production/Safety offices all over the world. It's only business, nothing serious. The Insurance companies have different profit/loss issues than do the automakers. When this storm blows over, in the near term all vehicles will have active head restraints and all will be more or less good.

    If you notice even in the IIHS's press releases it often mentioned that with new technology and design nearly all vehicles performed will in the offset crash tests. If the IIHS doesnt continue to raise the safety issue bar
    a) little or nothing will be done further;
    b) its existence is compromised.
    If all the vehicles are safe and all about the same who needs the IIHS anymore.

    The rear collision issue is a good one to on which to focus now.

    To answer your last question: since all vehicles now are now about equally safe in frontal collisions, if the Malibu does offer better protection against whiplash when hit from the rear, I'll go with the Malibu in your hypothetical situation.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Are these the ten cars (within their size classes) that you would choose if you made the list?

    No, mainly because VW's and Audis are unreliable piles of junk, IMHO.

    I'd rather take my chances with my current '04 and '05 Camrys (both with side airbags). They rated Good for front and side impact, Marginal for head restraints with cloth seats.

    But I have to admit the Legacy did very well, and I'd certainly think about it if I were buying today. Similarly, if I had to buy a small car, the Civic is the obvious choice.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    Just wait till 2007! Toyota and Honda, at least, aren't going to be caught with their pants down!
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Member Posts: 7,160
    I sincerely doubt that someone in the IIHS office suddenly discovered this whiplash issue as being so vitally important to the safety of American drivers and passengers.

    Since the IIHS is an impartial testing lab and speaks for all its principals I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that it is pressure from it's Board ( Ins Co's themselves ) that wants to reduce the amount of damages/claims paid out on whiplash injuries. I'd also bet that there is a hierarchy of risks that their statiticians have developed. Something like:
    1) make vehicles safer in frontal impacts
    2) reduce losses from side impacts
    3) reduce losses from rearend collisions ( whiplash injusries )
    4) reduce losses from rollovers and loss of control situations ( ESC )
    5) protect pedestrians as much as possible when hit by vehicles

    Frankly the more the Ins Co's push the better it is for us and the more I am for it. Even if it means my next vehicles will be somewhat more expensive. I wont buy a new vehicle in the future that doesnt have S+C A/B and VSC/Trac and active head restraints when they are available.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    According to the press reports, payouts for whiplash are on the order of $8.5 billion. That's not small potatoes. Think of how many rear-enders you see nearly every day.

    Actually the Institute worked with other research groups around the world to develop the new rear-end tests, and of course this was driven by the huge payouts insurers must make worldwide for whiplash injuries.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    Too much of that is litigiousness gone amok, and very little of it has anything to do with head restraints not being sufficient.
  • 210delray210delray Member Posts: 4,721
    That's your opinion, but whiplash is a very real and painful injury. There is some fraud, no doubt, and insurers are trying to weed this out.
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    Agreed 100% on both counts, but my point is that cars not performing correctly is not NEARLY as often to blame as some might believe.
  • big_prizebig_prize Member Posts: 50
    Just wait till 2007! Toyota and Honda, at least, aren't going to be caught with their pants down!

    Sounds like the kind of talk for which GM gets bashed!
  • mummumummu Member Posts: 1
    I'm confused about these results, especially when compared to the NHTSA test results that I read about several weeks ago......It seems as though it would be hard to make good use of this info as a consumer, because so many other factors are not taken into account. For instance, if I want to choose the safest car for my family, I would want it to have traction control & ESC. Several cars listed as "safest" do not have these features. Is there any list that considers crash results & handling to come up with the best picks?
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Member Posts: 7,160
    Here is a real quick SOTP synopsis. Ignore the NHTSA ratings.

    OK too harsh.
    Read them with this perspective they will only tell you about horrible vehicles... and there are none at this time.

    OK too broad.
    Here is the truth. The NHTSA test is very easy for any modern vehicle to pass and the side impact test is a joke. They have no inkling yet about rear collisions and Electronic Stability Control is impossible to measure so it doesnt exist. They created a 'Rollover' criteria but there is no test for it. It's just a calculation at this point. Anyone using these criteria instead of the IIHS is doing themselves and their families a massive injustice.

    YOu might want to look at the European Ins Co's ratings if you interested in a vehicle sold in both continents. for years the safest vehicles have come from...... Europe.
    Euro NCAP. They have a great video on the benefits of ESC. The recommendation there, soon also to be at the IIHS, is that Europeans should not buy any vehicle that doesnt have ESC with it. Cant be clearer than that.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    Stability control is something you have to figure in your own calculations... think of crash test results as "safest in a crash," and come up with your own judgement on overall safety.

    And yeah, NHTSA tests aren't as tough or realistic as IIHS.

    For a lot of cars, you can also check out EuroNCAP tests. They're pretty good too, and they have a category for pedestrians you might hit. The size thing is all different there though.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Consumer Reports includes the car's accident avoidance capabilities along with the IIHS and government crash test stuff.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    I saw the aftermath of a huge wreck this morning. Two of the involved vehicles were a late '90s Blazer and a current model Explorer.

    The results of the wreck looked much like the results of the IIHS offset crash test results for the two. The Blazer was crushed and the passenger cabin was demolished. I doubt the driver survived. The Explorer actually looked worse on the oustide, except for that the integrity of the cabin remained.

    It served as a reminder to me how big of a difference a little safety engineering makes.
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    Since everyone is so excited about this, here is an update. The local paper said the Explorer crossed the median and hit a car, bounced off, and then hit another car head on, and third hit the Blazer head on. The Blazer driver died at the scene, the Explorer driver was badly injured, and the other people (in small unidentifiable sedans) suffered moderate injuries.

    I know this is the wrong reaction, but my knee jerk is to put my wife in kids in a Suburban, or an Excursion, or a armored tank.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Member Posts: 1,280
    It's an understandable reaction.

    Of course, we all know you know better, if only based on what happened in this instance.

    And don't forget about the Miata driver that was going to get hit but dodged the Explorer =].

    (But how do you hit a sedan head on, and then go on to hit a Blazer even harder?)
  • lemmerlemmer Member Posts: 2,689
    The first two cars hit looked to be the size of a Civic/Corolla. They ended up pretty far away, as if they bounced to the side when hit (probably offset somewhat).

    Maybe the little cars exercised a little accidence avoidance, thereby saving themselves.
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    Just a few comments here:

    (1) passive vs active safety
    - the presence of (arguably) better active safety in a vehicle, such as better handling and traction does not preclude it having as good or better passive safety devices (e.g. airbags, crumple zones, headrests) as other vehicles in its class.
    - i.e. it doesn't matter how much better a BMW, MB or Volvo handles compared to a Ford 500, it can have just as good passive safety measures as well.
    And maybe for the price they ABSOLUTELY should have the best passive safety measures in the business. The IIHS tests aren't completely out to lunch compared to some of the accidents that occur.

    (2) accidents/thousand vehicles by make and model (at fault)
    - has anyone ever seen listed such a table ?
    - if active safety systems are strong determining factors, would vehicles with better active safety systems not have a lower frequency of at fault accidents ?
    - the driver (e.g. speed, braking distance maintained, attention to the road, experience, etc.) is certainly an important factor but that is a limitation to ANY prediction. You might want to adjust such raw data with the #years driving experience of the drivers - sounds actuarial !

    (3) changing reputations ?
    - when I first became interested in cars in the late 70s/early 80s MB and Volvo had a reputation for being safe and reliable cars. Real class leaders in these regards: "you get what you pay for"
    - 25 years on, and impact testing results like these, Cons.Reports, JD Power's 3 year Vehicle Dependability Study, etc. really makes me wonder if that is justified any more - so what are you paying for now ?

    (4) redundancy due to shared platforms
    - it would be nice if the IIHS had used their head a bit more and realized that they had some redundancy there due to shared platforms (e.g. Audi/VW, Malibu/9-3). There could be a few more models on their "top ten" list.
  • cpsdarrencpsdarren Member Posts: 265
    If you want a better picture of overall safety, check out http://www.informedforlife.org . They use published data and forumlas to produce an overall risk rating comparable across all classes and weights. The inputs are the IIHS crash test results, NHTSA crash test results, vehicle weight, NHTSA rollover rating and presence of side curtain airbags and stability control. The data is only tabulated for 2004-2006 model year vehicles. Earlier years use driver fatality data calculated by the IIHS from NHTSA data.

    It's not perfect, but it's great for someone who wants a quick overall snapshot of safety based on most available data without spending a lot of time picking and choosing how to weight all the various crash results.
  • prosaprosa Member Posts: 280
    Very interesting site, thanks for providing the link. I'm pleased to see that my '06 Subaru Forester scores a respectable 76 :)
  • ubbermotorubbermotor Member Posts: 307
    There are to many variables for a safety rating to have any relevance to the accident you might be in. A controlled test cannot predict your outcome after being thrown into complete chaos.

    I’ve seen a person (that I knew) with there head pinned between a crushed A pillar and the ground (yes he had the seatbelt on, and yes it held).

    I’ve seen a steel rod get run over get run over, flip up into the frame then proceed to rip of the front wheel and fender (at freeway speeds).

    I’ve seen a load of plywood come off a flatbed and peel an F150 like a banana..

    I’ve seen a 4X slide over the bumper/trunk of a small car, and take off the top of the cab.

    You can have your air bags and crumple zones. Give me the brakes for panic stops, the handling to swerve recklessly and the power to get out of the way.
  • rockyleerockylee Member Posts: 14,014
    Saab ????

  • cpsdarrencpsdarren Member Posts: 265
    "There are to many variables for a safety rating to have any relevance to the accident you might be in. A controlled test cannot predict your outcome after being thrown into complete chaos."

    Crash tests do fairly closely represent the most common types of real-world crashes.

    "Give me the brakes for panic stops, the handling to swerve recklessly and the power to get out of the way."

    I agree. For the most typical frontal and side impacts, I'd also like to know I have a very crashworthy vehicle design, in case I can't avoid it in the first place.
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