By Brent L. Handel Q.C.
After being in a motor vehicle collision, the importance of driving a safer vehicle is at the top of your mind.
The first place to start is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has developed very stringent crash testing and crash avoidance testing for all manufacturers. Go to www.IIHS.org. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in fact, is now so persuasive on buying decisions that manufacturers are now responding to the test to make safer vehicles in order to get a Top Safety Pick +.
To get a Top Safety Pick +, a vehicle must, in addition to top crash ratings, have crash avoidance technology, such as automatic braking technology to prevent a collision even if the person is looking down or not paying attention.
The new 2016 Volvo XC90, which will be coming out this fall, adds new technology for crash avoidance of an impending collision, and will have left-hand turn avoidance technology. In our personal injury and fatal accident law practice, we see many terrible injuries as a result of left-hand turns in front of an oncoming vehicle because the collision is a T-bone collision, which unfortunately, the driver’s passenger is crushed on the side and motor vehicles are not designed for side impacts, which often results in horrific injuries, or a fatality.
In the new 2016 Volvo XC90, when you have the signal light on waiting to turn left, it will monitor an oncoming vehicle, and if you try to proceed when there is not enough room to proceed, given the speed of the oncoming vehicle, it will actually brake and prevent you from making the left-hand turn! This is an outstanding breakthrough for technology.
As well, the new Volvo XC90 will have auto-braking technology up to speeds of 50 km/hr, so that even at 50 km/hr, if you do not see a child run across the road or a cyclist or another vehicle, the vehicle will automatically stop and not strike the person or vehicle up to speeds of 50km/hr. Only two years ago, the technology allowed only up to 30 km/hr.
Volvo continues to lead manufacturers, along with Mercedes-Benz, with safety technology. Volvo promises that, by 2020, nobody will be seriously injured or killed in one of their vehicles.
So if you are looking for a safe vehicle, confine your search to the IIHS Top Safety Pick +.
For small cars, Handel Law Firm will not even list them because, despite the fact that the crash testing may have a Top Safety Pick + in a small car, the reality is, in real world crashes, a small car weighing 2,500 lbs hitting a larger vehicle weighing 5,000 lbs (a standard SUV), or a large 3/4 ton truck, weighing 7,500 lbs, the person in the small car will always be seriously injured or fatally killed simply because of basic physics of the difference in weight and height. Therefore, in the opinion of Handel Law Firm, the IIHS does not emphasize enough the fact that the small cars, with Top Safety Picks, really are bad choices for real world driving, simply because they are too small and too light. The same goes for mid-size cars.
Handel Law Firm would recommend that you only drive a large car or a mid-size to large SUV. In the large cars, the Top Safety Picks + for 2015 (please note that all 2015 cars have not been tested yet, so this is a incomplete list) are: Acura RLX, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q70, Lexus RC, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S80.
For mid-size SUV’s Top Safety Pick + the only two currently listed as of June 18, 2015, are the 2014 and 2015 Toyota Highlander, which is the vehicles one of our injury lawyers at our firm drives, and the 2015 Nissan Murano. Once the new 2016 Volvo XC90 is tested it no doubt will be added as a Top Safety Pick +. For the mid-size luxury SUV’s, the Top Safety Pick + include Acura MDX, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Volvo XC 60, and Audi Q5. For minivans, the only Top Safety Pick + is the Toyota Sienna.
Minivans are a topic of significant interest to young families because of course they are driving around their young children and unfortunately there are three minivans out there which have terrible testing results, especially in the small overlap front crash test, which simulates a typical partial front-end collision where both vehicles don’t hit completely square at the front, but only “slice” at each other, one corner to another corner. The Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town and Country, and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, all earn poor ratings. The only exception to this pattern is the 2015 Toyota Sienna. The 2015 Toyota Sienna, which is noted as a Top Safety Pick +, and the Honda Odyssey, which is a Top Safety Pick.
The future for crash safety is not just in protection in a crash, but in crash avoidance with technologies such as those discussed above, including auto-braking preventing a front-end collision. Now the 2016 Volvo XC 90 has auto-steering if you fall asleep or depart from your lane. Currently several models have lane departure warning systems, which will beep if you move out of your lane, but the Volvo XC 90 is taking it one step further and auto-steering back into the lane.
There are also crucially important standard back-up sensors and back-up cameras when backing out of a driveway, especially if you have young children, which again are crucial safety avoidance technologies. The blind spot mirror monitors which will beep and flash in your side-view mirrors when a vehicle is in your blind spot, and if you turn on your signal light and try to turn when that vehicle is there, it will flash quickly in your side mirror or make an audible sound. All of this makes changing lanes extremely easy as you do not have to turn around to shoulder check, which results in you driving forward at a significant speed while you are looking backwards, which never was a good idea, but it was the only option prior to this new technology of lane departure, or of blind spot warning information systems. Other safety technologies include adaptive headlights which go from high beam to low beam based upon oncoming vehicles, and adaptive cruise control, which will automatically slow down when you approach a vehicle in front of you to keep a safe distance without you having to turn off the cruise control.
The next step in safety are advances being made in intelligent transportation systems that allow vehicles to communicate with one another, or with road infrastructure to avoid crashes.
Currently Google, believe it or not, has Google cars driving around logging thousands of miles without a driver touching the wheel (a driver has to be in there for current legality), but the cars are driving around safely completely based upon the computer technology, the roads and the avoidance technology. So the technology is already here and hopefully, in the next generation, there simply will not be any fatal motor vehicle collisions as everybody will be driving around controlled by technologies that prevent these types of collisions.
Of course, currently, this technology is in the latest model of vehicles and in some luxury vehicles, which makes it very difficult to obtain, not only for yourself, but even for your teenagers, who need it the most. Therefore, consult the IIHS.org website, as they have a section specifically on vehicles for teenagers, and which are the best choices under certain price points on older vehicles. Typically the vehicles are not much older than 2009, because the technology and the crash safety worthiness simply was not there before then, but that can still save you a lot of money over a brand new vehicle and you will have a safe vehicle for your teenage driver.