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Can Safer Cars Mean Better Safety in a Car Accident?

Each year, Forbes releases a list of “safest cars” of the year. To compile the list, experts look at rollover data and crash test information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). Forbes offers points to each car based on how well they fare in these tests and then examine the head injuries, leg injuries, and other personal injuries that crash dummies in these cars experience. Forbes also considers the Consumer Reports’ crash tests.

This year, a number of brands have fared well on the Forbes “safest” list. These manufacturers include Acura, Volvo, Honda and Subaru. Some of the cars on the list offer special safety and collision-avoidance technologies such as collision mitigation and lane departure warning systems. The Subaru Forester even has a seat-position sensor that warns the driver if he or she is too close to the air bag for safety. However, many experts are divided as to how much of an impact such systems really have.

Most experts do agree, however, that simple design choices often have a big impact on car safety. Cars like the Saab 9-3 have head protection in the form of head restraints. In a rear-end car collision, they prevent the neck and head from snapping backwards. This can help prevent brain injuries and other serious injuries.

Most cars that top the safety list also offer side-crash protection. The GMC Acadia, for example, offers full-length side airbags. Honda’s 2009 RDX SUV has crumple zones that absorb impact on the front and the rear of the vehicle. The car also comes equipped with side-impact door beams to offer additional protection to passengers in a crash.

One thing that is noticeable about the list is that larger cars are tops on the list. While some smaller cars do make it on the list, when it comes to safety, size seems to count. The Forbes list includes many SUVs and a number of medium-sized cars. The director of vehicle testing at isn’t surprised by this. As he points out, a larger car offers more between the occupants and the road, which means greater safety.

However, in addition to releasing a list of the safest cars of the year, Forbes has also released its list of most dangerous cars in a collision. Using the same data, they found the cars most likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities in a crash. The cars with the lowest scores were the Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV, the Kia Rio sedan and the Ford Ranger pickup truck. The “worst” list features an array of trucks, SUVs, and small cars, proving that size doesn’t automatically mean safety.