Vehicle Safety

For many drivers, a vehicle’s safety rating is much more important than its design or its pricetag. Generally, it’s up to the consumer to dig out the research results to find out which models are the safest in crashes. To help readers, we’ve compiled a list of key safety data below.

SCORE (Statistical Combination of Risk Elements)

The SCORE index comes from Informed For Life, a non-profit organization focused on improving the usefulness of vehicle safety information as a public service. Fatality rates for some vehicles are more than 20x higher than for others. SCORE is a simple look-up display for the vehicle ratings and risk index of 2003 through current year models that combines NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) ratings, plus vehicle weight, to derive a single SCORE for every vehicle. Look up a vehicle’s SCORE using the display below or get background information at

After reviewing the NHSTA specifications, readers should also take into consideration the following points, provided courtesy of the Informed for Life organization:

– An NHSTA 4-Star rating is typically 3 times the risk versus 5 Stars

– 56% of all vehicles manufactured after 2006 received 5 Stars (+ 40% received 4 Stars)

– Side impact star ratings EXCLUDE head injury risk

– Another independent agency (IIHS) may have crash tested this same vehicle in a different manner with different results. (IIHS evaluates head injury due to side impact.)

– Lightweight vehicles experience approximately 2x the fatality rate versus average-weight vehicles

– Side-curtain airbags (mandated in 2009) reduce side-impact fatalities by approx 45%

– Electronic Stability Control or ESC (mandated in 2012) reduces rollover fatalities by approximately 43%.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA)

NHTSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) was initiated with the primary purpose of providing consumers with a measure of the relative safety potential of vehicles in frontal crashes. NCAP supplies frontal- and side- crash test results. Get details at

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

The U.S.-based IIHS is an independent, non-profit, research and communications organization funded by auto insurance companies. A major part of IIHS’ current testing program is Crashworthiness Evaluations of new passenger vehicles.

The principal component of each vehicle’s rating is its performance in a 40-mph frontal offset crash test. This test is a good measure of a vehicle’s structural design. The institute’s website also features results of low-speed (bumper) crash tests, side-impact tests and head restraint tests. Get details at

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