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  BUYING A SAFER CAR

 

     Buying a Safer Car can help consumers confidently identify the safest vehicles.

Information is provided to help determine which automobiles offer the most protection from injury and death during a frontal or side collision and to identify those vehicles most

frequently stolen.

 

     This brochure represents no endorsement of any particular vehicle.  Information was

obtained from government agencies and vehicle manufacturers.

 

     The guide is current as of Jan. 31, 1995.

 

USING THE GUIDE

 

     Charts contain safety feature information, results from frontal crash tests and theft

ratings.

 

     Safety feature information covers driver and passenger air bags, anti-lock brakes,

adjustable shoulder belt anchors for more comfortable safety-belt fit and, for passenger

cars, improved side-impact protection.

 

     Features are shown as: S-standard equipment on all vehicles in that car line; N - not

available on any vehicle in that car line; or A - available on some vehicles in that car

line.

 

     Crash testing is expensive, so all vehicles cannot be tested every year.  Cars, light

trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans that are new, popular, redesigned or have improved

safety equipment are selected for testing and bought from dealers.

 

     Additional results for current models will be released at intervals throughout the

year.  These vehicles are identified in the Crash Tests column as "to be tested."  For

crash-test data on other vehicles tested since 1979, call Auto Safety Hotline: (800)424-

9393.

 

SAFETY SELLS

 

     Auto-related deaths and injuries place a heavy load on society.  In addition to

causing grief and suffering, vehicle crashes add billions of dollars to the cost of health

care and vehicle insurance.

 

 

     Each year, some 40,000 Americans lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions.  one

in 8.5 drivers is involved in an automobile collision and one out of nine hospital beds is

occupied by a victim of an auto-related incident.

 

     Despite these grim statistics, the rate of traffic deaths per million miles driven is

steadily declining.  Safer cars get partial credit for the encouraging trend.  Each new

model must meet safety standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration.

 

     As the car-buying public becomes increasingly interested in safety, manufacturers,

are offering automotive safety features beyond NHTSA's minimum requirements.  Though not

yet required by law, features such as dual air bags increase a vehicle's sales appeal.

 

SAFETY FIRST

 

     No automobile is 100 percent safe or collision-proof.  An experienced and unimpaired

driver is the most important safety features in any car.  Never drive when you are:

 

     Influenced by drugs or alcohol.

     Ill or emotionally upset.

     Fatigued - especially around your normal bedtime.

 

     Keep your car in safe operating condition.  Carefully read the owner's manual that

comes with your car and follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule.

Visually inspect tires, lights and fluid levels at each refueling.  Make sure your spare

tire is inflated and pack a first-aid kit and flares in your trunk.

 

     Make sure every person in your vehicle buckles up.

Correct and consistent use of safety belts is the best safety measure you can adopt.

 

BUYING TIPS

 

     In 1994, the average cost of a car in the United States was $18,000.  For a financial

decision of this magnitude, consumers need to be prepared when they enter the showroom.

 

     Do some research.  Check buying guides to narrow your choice in models and options.

Buying guides also help pinpoint prices.

 

 

     Make safety a priority.  Safety features such as air bags, anti-lock brake systems

and side-impact protection should be tops of your list.  Also check for important safety

elements such as a right side mirror or a three-point safety belt system that has

adjustable shoulder belt anchors.

 

     A weighty decision.  Crash data show that heavy cars offer more protection than light

cars equipped with the same safety features.

 

     Simple safety checks.  During your test drive, make sure that head restraints, roof

structure or windshield designs do not interfere with your visibility.  Look for interior

designs that avoid control knobs sticking out of the dash to reduce chance of injury.

 

     Check out clones.  Clones are nearly identical models built on the same platform and

marketed under a different nameplate.  Prices and options vary.  You could come out ahead

buying the high-end model - with standard ABS and dual air bags - instead of the low-end

model with those options added.

 

     Shop around.  Negotiate prices or enlist the help of a buying service.  Investigate

financing options at the dealer and your bank or credit union.  And check the fine print:

Does the contract include credit insurance, which may be available under an existing

policy you have?

 

     Scrutinize service contracts.  Does the warranty period overlap the service agreement

period? What repairs are covered and who can perform them? What is the cancellation and

refund policy?

 

VEHICLE RATINGS

 

The Importance of Crash Testing

 

     Since 1979, NHTSA has been crash-testing vehicles through its New Car Assessment

Program.  Crash-test results determine how well vehicles protect belted drivers and front-

seat passengers during a frontal collision.

 

     During the crash test, dummies are placed in driver and front passenger seats.

Instruments measure the force of impact to each dummy's head, chest and legs.  Tests use

all available restraints.

 

 

     Federal safety standards require all passenger cars meet injury criteria measured in

a 30 mph frontal crash.  NCAP tests are conducted at 35 mph to make the difference between

vehicles more apparent.  Tests simulate damage equivalent to a head-on collision between

two identical vehicles, each moving at 35 mph.  This is the same as a vehicle moving at 70

mph striking an identical parked vehicle.

 

Interpreting NCAP Crash-Testing Ratings

 

     NHTSA recently revised NCAP crash-testing ratings to make them easier for consumers

to understand.  A five-star rating indicates the best protection and one star the least.

 

     Crash-test ratings are meaningful only when comparing vehicles in the same weight

class.  Results do not reflect the extent to which an occupant in a light weight vehicle

could be injured in a collision with a heavier vehicle.

 

1995 NEW CAR SAFETY FEATURES

 

     Manufacturers provide buyers the most complete information about standard or optional

safety equipment on their vehicles.  Listed below are features that are especially

important.

 

     Air Bags.  Air Bags instantly inflate in frontal crashes at speeds as low as 15 mph.

They are designed to prevent occupants from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel or

windshield.  Driver and front passenger air bags will be standard equipment in all model

year 1998 cars and all model year 1999 light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.

Many vehicles are already equipped with this important feature.

 

     Front air bags do not eliminate the need for safety belts and they offer no

protection in rollovers, rear or side impacts.  Safety belts help keep you in place should

a collision occur.

 

     Caution:  Never use a rear-facing child safety seat in a front seat equipped with a

passenger-side air bag.  As the air bag opens, it may exert too much force on the safety

seat and injure the child.

 

     Anti-lock Brakes.  Anti-lock brake systems prevent a vehicle's wheels from locking up

during "panic" braking by automatically pumping brakes several times per second.  This

allows the driver to retain steering control as the vehicle slows - a key factor in

avoiding a collision.

 

 

     Even with ABS, hydroplaning and skidding can be caused by excessive speed or extreme

steering maneuvers.  Be sure to read your owner's manual for more information about ABS.

 

     Safety Belt Systems.  Safety belt systems are your best protection in a crash.  They

prevent you from colliding with the dash or windshield and hold you inside the vehicle.

 

     Whether manual or automatic, safety belts are most effective if adjusted properly.

All safety belts should be pulled tightly across the pelvis.  Some systems also offer

adjustable anchors that change the height of the shoulder strap to improve belt fit.

Check the manufacturer's instructions to properly adjust safety belts in your car.

 

     Side-Impact Protection.  Side-impact crashes are the second leading cause of death

and injury to passenger car occupants.  At least 25 percent of 1995 passenger cars must be

equipped to protect the front and rear occupants during a simulated 30 mph side-impact

crash.  The government requires all 1997 passenger cars have this protection.  Many new

models provide this protection ahead of the required schedule.

 

     Manufacturers can choose from a number of features to fulfill this requirement -

including extra structure, energy-absorbing foam, door panel or seat-mounted air bags - as

long as the vehicle passes occupant protection requirements.

 

THEFT RATINGS

 

     Theft ratings are compiled from information provided by the Federal Bureau of

Investigation and vehicle manufacturers.  NHTSA calculates a theft rate for each vehicle

based on the number of vehicles stolen and the number of vehicles manufactured.  Based on 1992 data, which is the latest information available, a mid-point theft rate was

calculated.  Vehicles with theft rates above or below that value was noted in the chart.

 

     NHTSA requires manufacturers to mark targeted vehicle parts with the vehicle

identification number or provide a NHTSA-approved anti-theft device as standard equipment.

 

     Many insurance companies offer discounts of 5 percent to 20 percent of the

comprehensive portion of insurance premiums for vehicles equipped with an anti-theft

device.  Be sure to ask your insurance company if it offers all discounts for an anti-

theft device.

 

     Contact NHTSA at (800) 424-9393 for specific information on vehicle theft ratings.
 

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