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It’s just after the holiday season! If you’re one of lucky ones, “Santa” just brought you a new car this year. Just in time for the holiday buying season, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s annual list of the safest cars for 2008 has been released. New cars now have some new technologies that just might keep you safer in case you’re involved in an accident, and keep you away from a visit to a local personal attorney for personal injuries. What car tops your list? Let’s see if they match this year’s top safe cars.

Audi A4, Acura’s RL and Saab’s 9-3 were rated the three safest automobiles to date. All three cars received top scores from four of the most respected sources for automobile safety data; Consumer Reports, the Department of Transportation, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

Honda and Ford had the most models on the top of the list with thirty four vehicles receiving the best safety pick designation for 2008. In comparison, in model year 2007 there were only thirteen vehicles. Why the big increase? Automobile dealers are installing newer safe technology before legislation mandates it in most cases. So what do you look for when buying a safe car? Electronic stability control (ESC) and side air bags (SAB) are a great place to begin since several NHTSA studies have shown that these new technologies offer tremendous life-saving abilities.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC), offered under various trade names, is designed to assist drivers in maintaining control of their vehicles during extreme steering maneuvers or on slippery roads. ESC senses when a vehicle is starting to lose control – known as either spinning out (over steering) or plowing out (under steering). When this occurs, ESC automatically applies the brake to one or more of the wheels to turn the vehicle to the appropriate direction. However, ESC cannot keep a vehicle on the road if the vehicle’s speed is simply too great for conditions.
Based on a NHTSA study of U.S. crash data, NHTSA estimates equipping vehicles with ESC will reduce single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars by 34 percent and single-vehicle crashes of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) by 59 percent. Preventing single-vehicle loss-of-control crashes is the most effective way to reduce deaths resulting from rollover crashes. The NHSTA proposed safety standard would require manufacturers to begin equipping vehicles with ESC in the 2009 model year and to have the technology standard in all vehicles by the 2012 model year.

Side-impact air bag (SAB) technology offers additional protection to two main areas of the body – the head and the chest – during side-impact crashes. SABs can provide significant safety benefits to adults in side-impact crashes. NHTSA estimates that if all the vehicles on U.S. roads were equipped with head protection SABs, 700 to 1,000 lives would be saved per year in side-impact crashes. NHTSA also estimates that in side-impact crashes involving at least one fatality, nearly 60 percent of those killed have suffered brain injuries.

For an excellent, up-to-date publication on buying a safe car this year, visit for the brochure entitled, “Buying a Safer Car 2007”. It will give you a full list of crash tests, rollover ratings and safety features to be aware of when purchasing a new car.

Lastly, whenever we look at the most safe cars, one has to list some of the least-safe cars as well. This list comes from the IIHS. All of the following are the four-door models: Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Saturn Ion, Suzuki’s Aerio and Forenza. The biggest surprise was the Toyota Corolla without the side air bags.

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