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Newest Tests Show It is Becoming Safer to Drive

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Erik Von Weber | Stone | Getty Images

In the last week, we’ve seen two reports that paint a very clear picture.

For millions of Americans, driving has become safer and their odds of surviving a horrific crash have improved dramatically.

The latest report came out early this morning from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In its annual crash test report, the IIHS gave a record number of new models a top safety rating. With 115 out of 180 2012 models performing well in a battery of crash tests, the IIHS report is proof new technology and changes in design are improving the safety of our cars, trucks and SUV’s.

It’s the second piece of good news in the last week regarding the safety of driving on American roads. The National Highway Safety Administration says the number of people killed in accidents has dropped to its lowest level since 1949. Yes, the total number of fatalities (32,885) is still a disturbing, but it is an improvement.

One factor behind that improvement can be seen in the latest IIHS crash tests. A number of models now have stronger roofs that will better protect people in the car during an accident. It’s a design change the IIHS has pushed for in recent years. Those stronger roofs, along with all vehicles now having electronic stability control, means the likelihood of a deadly rollover crash has dropped.

So which automakers stood out in the IIHS safety ratings?

  • Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) has 15 models with the top safety rating. The most of any automaker
  • GM has 14 models with a top safety rating
  • Honda (including Acura) is the most improved automaker with 10 of its 2012 models getting a top rating.
  • 15 of the vehicles with a top safety rating are hybrid or electric models, including the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt.

The bottom line is that our cars and trucks are perhaps safer than ever before, and our odds of surviving a crash have never been greater. That doesn’t mean all dangers and problems have been eliminated. Drunk driving and distracted driving remain two major problems. Combined, they contribute to more than 20% of the traffic deaths in this country. And there will always be recalls of defects, some that are so serious they could lead to a fatality.

But all in all, this list of top models for safety is one that we should be applauding.

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