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Drivers wreck once a decade; are you ready to crash?

Consumer Reports News: August 30, 2012 03:08 PM

On average, a driver experiences a claim-worthy crash every 10 years, according to the Allstate Insurance Company. That stat begs the question: Are you ready to crash?

In its eighth annual "Allstate America's Best Drivers Report," the insurance firm found that in major cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York, the average years between collisions could be just six to seven years. Since the average age of all cars on the road is approaching 11 years—up from about eight years in 1995, according to Polk research—this means every car you own is statistically likely to be in an accident.

Safety remains a top priority among car buyers, based on Consumer Reports surveys. Given the odds, this is a good thing, because crashes can range from grille altering to life changing, and even ending.

To keep yourself and passengers safe, practicing good driving behavior is key:

  • Obey the speed limit and traffic laws.

  • Don't follow other vehicles closely.

  • Avoid distractions, such as texting and unsecured pets.

  • When weather conditions are threatening, simply slow down and plan in more time to get to your destination.

  • Exercise patience and courtesy.

But, choosing a good, safe, and reliable car is also critical.

Our car model pages detail our dynamic test results, scores from government and insurance industry crash tests, and reliability information.

We're seeing new safety technologies are helping to make today's cars safer. Now, antilock brakes, curtain air bags, and stability control are either standard equipment or readily available and we highly recommend choosing a car, new or used, that is so equipped.

When looking at crash-test results, you may notice the trend that most new cars score highly in front-impact tests. To provide further insight to differentiate models, and influence industry to further improve occupant protection, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just rolled out an additional test, a frontal crash that simulates just a small overlap between the front of a car and an object or vehicle it hits. The new small-overlap test involves just 25 percent of the width of the vehicle, concentrating the force on essentially the left front corner. The tested vehicles careen into a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. And the results were decidedly mixed in the initial test group of upscale sedans.

The good news is that cars have made significant progress in crash-test protection, and new features, such as collision warning systems and blind-spot detection, can further reduce the likelihood of an incident. Further, there is ample information available for the diligent shopper willing to invest a few minutes in researching their next car.

The data shows that where you live and what you drive truly impact your safety risk, but remember, how you drive can make all the difference. Be careful out there.

Learn more about car safety.

Jeff Bartlett

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