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You’re ready to hand over the keys to your old company car and are putting together your new vehicle wish list. What do you really want in a new car? You probably want something that performs well, is comfortable during those long hauls, and has an appearance that will impress clients and colleagues. The last thing on your mind, most likely, is how well your new car will perform in a auto collision. But safety should be at the top of your list when making a vehicle selection.

Keep in mind that every car sold in the United States must meet the government’s minimum rating for crash-worthiness. Carmakers have recently raised the bar and are marketing cars that address the public’s growing concern for vehicle safety. These newer cars often exceed minimum safety standards.

How can you determine how safe your new vehicle is? Ask the following questions:

• How well will the vehicle protect me and my passengers in a crash?

• How will this vehicle mitigate damage to another vehicle in a collision?

• What safety features does this vehicle have to help prevent a crash?

Let’s take a look at vehicle weight and size, and active and passive safety features to see how they can help you survive or avoid an accident.

Is Bigger Really Better?

When it comes to vehicle safety, weight and size matter. When there’s a crash, fatalities in a small car are twice as likely as in an SUV or large car, so bigger is better. The caveat with large vehicles is that if they collide with a smaller car, the smaller car will incur significantly more auto body damage. While big cars and SUVs provide added driver and passenger safety, they could put you at greater risk of killing others in an accident.

Avoiding an Accident

Devices that help drivers prevent an accident are known as active safety features. Your car’s tires, brakes, handling, acceleration, and visibility all contribute to accident avoidance. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are formidable features that help you maintain control in emergency maneuvers and slippery road conditions. Proper use of these features could save your life.

Surviving an Accident

Devices that keep drivers safe and uninjured in a crash are known as passive safety features. Seat belt restraints are a critical passive safety feature, which protect occupants from severe injuries in an automobile collision by holding them in place. Seat belt restraints in newer vehicles feature automatic pre-tensioners that pick up the belt stretch and slack that occur in an accident, and reduce the likelihood of back and neck injury. They also create the proper room for air bag deployment. Airbags have gotten some bad press over the past few years, but the fact is they do save lives. Airbags are a crucial passive safety feature, and cars with both front and side airbags perform better in a collision. Keep in mind that airbags offer good protection in a crash, but seat belts must also be worn for complete protection. To get the latest safety rating for the car you are considering, visit: http://www.safercar.gov/