1. Choose a heavier vehicle.
Vehicle size and weight matter. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), smaller and lighter vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. People in lighter vehicles experience higher crash forces when struck by heavier vehicles, and there is less structure to absorb the crash energy, so deaths and injuries are more likely.
2. Look for a crashworthy design.
This means a structure with a strong occupant compartment, crumple zones to absorb the force of a serious crash, side structure to manage the force of a striking vehicle or struck object, and a strong roof that won’t collapse in a rollover. Safety belts and airbags are also important.
To evaluate crashworthiness, check out the IIHS Top Safety Picks, which are awarded each year. To qualify as Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test. Models that earn this designation are the best choices for safety within their size categories.
3. Consider crash-avoidance technologies.
Most new cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs earn good ratings in most crash tests conducted by the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition to protecting you in case of a crash, many new cars feature new technologies to help avoid crashes in the first place. Based on analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute, two of these features—front crash prevention and adaptive headlights—are already helping to reduce crashes.
Front crash prevention systems include forward collision warning, which alert you if you get too close to a car in front, and autobrake, which can brake if you don’t respond in time. Adaptive headlights shift direction as you steer to help you see better on curves in the dark.