Institute Picks Safest Vehicles For 2009

Ford tops list, Lexus missing
canada.com | Published: Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ford has topped the list in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Picks, while Honda’s luxury division Acura earned the title for every vehicle in its lineup. Missing from the list was Lexus and Infiniti.

In all, 72 vehicles earned the IIHS’s Top Safety award for 2009, more than double the number of 2008 recipients and more than 3 times the number of 2007 winners – proving that many of today’s cars are safer.

The U.S. safety agency says Top Safety Pick winners are vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to have electronic stability control (ESC), which research shows significantly reduces crash risk.

For the first time ever, winners represent every class of vehicle the Institute tests except microcars. Ford and its subsidiary Volvo have 16 winners, including the Ford F-150 large pickup. Thirteen winners are from Honda and its Acura division. The Honda Fit with optional ESC is the first minicar to earn Top Safety Pick.

Honda, Acura, and Subaru, which picked up 4 awards, are standouts for 2009 because they have at least 1 safety pick in every vehicle class in which they compete.

“Consumers are the biggest winners,” says Institute president Adrian Lund. “No matter what kind of vehicle buyers may be considering, now they can walk into just about any dealership and find one that affords the best overall protection in serious crashes.”

Front and side impacts are the most common kinds of fatal crashes, killing about three-quarters of the 28,896 passenger vehicle occupants who died in 2007. Rear-end crashes usually aren’t fatal, but they result in a large proportion of crash injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most commonly reported injury in two thirds of insurance claims for injuries in all kinds of crashes.

“In order to win, automakers have beefed up the side structures of vehicles and added side airbags to do a better job of protecting people in serious side crashes,” Lund says. “They’re rapidly adding ESC to prevent crashes, and they’re designing seats and head restraints that do a better job of protecting against whiplash.”

The changes are evident in the safety equipment that is increasingly standard. For the 2009 model year, 84 percent of passenger cars, 99 percent of SUVs, and 23 percent of pickups have standard side airbags with head protection. The same is true for ESC. It’s standard on 74 percent of passenger cars, 99 percent of SUVs, and 37 percent of pickups.

Twenty-six models fall short of earning top picks because of inadequate head restraint designs. The Smart Fortwo, the only microcar in the US market, missed because of its head restraints. The same goes for Toyota’s hybrid Prius, which performed well in the Institute’s front and side crash tests but came up short for rear crash protection.

Chrysler is the only major automaker lacking a single Top Safety Pick. It could have picked up five awards if the head restraints were better in the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring, the Sebring convertible, and the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the IIHS said.

Eleven vehicles missed the mark because they didn’t earn a good rating for occupant protection in side crashes. Many of these vehicles are smaller cars whose size puts them at a disadvantage in the challenging test compared with larger, heavier vehicles.

“Still, the sheer number of this year’s winners indicates that automakers have made huge strides to improve crash protection to achieve TOP SAFETY PICK designation,” Lund says. “For years, Toyota had more also-rans than winners. For 2009 this automaker has come on strong by updating seats and head restraints in the Avalon, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, and RAV4 to earn good ratings. Volkswagen has done the same with the Eos, Jetta, Passat, and Rabbit.”

ALL 72 WINNERS

Large cars

  1. Acura RL
  2. Audi A6
  3. Cadillac CTS
  4. Ford Taurus
  5. Lincoln MKS
  6. Mercury Sable
  7. Toyota Avalon
  8. Volvo S80

Midsize cars

  1. Acura TL, TSX
  2. Audi A3, A4
  3. BMW 3 series 4-door models
  4. Ford Fusion with optional electronic stability control
  5. Honda Accord 4-door models
  6. Mercedes C class
  7. Mercury Milan with optional electronic stability control
  8. Saab 9-3
  9. Subaru Legacy
  10. Volkswagen Jetta, Passat

Midsize convertibles

  1. Saab 9-3
  2. Volkswagen Eos
  3. Volvo C70

Small cars

  1. Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
  2. Mitsubishi Lancer with optional electronic stability control
  3. Scion xB
  4. Subaru Impreza with optional electronic stability control
  5. Toyota Corolla with optional electronic stability control
  6. Volkswagen Rabbit

Minicar

  1. Honda Fit with optional electronic stability control
  2. Minivans
  3. Honda Odyssey
  4. Hyundai Entourage
  5. Kia Sedona

Large SUVs

  1. Audi Q7
  2. Buick Enclave
  3. Chevrolet Traverse
  4. GMC Acadia
  5. Saturn Outlook

Midsize SUVs

  1. Acura MDX, RDX
  2. BMW X3, X5
  3. Ford Edge, Flex, Taurus X
  4. Honda Pilot
  5. Hyundai Santa Fe, Veracruz
  6. Infiniti EX35
  7. Lincoln MKX
  8. Mercedes M class
  9. Nissan Murano
  10. Saturn VUE
  11. Subaru Tribeca
  12. Toyota FJ Cruiser, Highlander
  13. Volvo XC90

Small SUVs

  1. Ford Escape
  2. Honda CR-V, Element
  3. Mazda Tribute
  4. Mercury Mariner
  5. Mitsubishi Outlander
  6. Nissan Rogue
  7. Subaru Forester
  8. Toyota RAV4
  9. Volkswagen Tiguan

Large pickups

  1. Ford F-150
  2. Honda Ridgeline
  3. Toyota Tundra

Small pickup

  1. Toyota Tacoma

ALSO-RANS These 26 vehicles earn good ratings in front and side crash tests. They have ESC, standard or optional. They would be 2009 TOP SAFETY PICK winners if their seat/head restraints also earn good ratings:

  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chrysler Sebring, Sebring convertible, Town & Country
  • Dodge Avenger, Grand Caravan
  • Infiniti G35, M35
  • Kia Amanti
  • Lexus ES, GS,IS
  • Mazda CX-7, CX-9
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Endeavor
  • Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Quest, Xterra
  • Saturn AURA
  • Smart Fortwo
  • Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Prius, Sienna

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IBC Applauds New Ontario Seat Belt Rules

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has endorsed proposed amendments to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act that would require one seatbelt for each passenger in a vehicle.

“We applaud [Ontario Transportation] Minister Donna Cansfield for taking swift action to address this serious road safety concern” Mark Yakabuski, IBC’s vice-president, federal affairs and Ontario, said in a press release.

“Ontario’s road safety record is the envy of the world precisely because of forward looking legislation like the amendments introduced today. We are confident that today’s changes will help prevent further injury and death on our roads, and we fully encourage the legislative assembly to enact the bill as quickly as possible.”

The McGuinty government introduced the amendments to the Highway Traffic Act on Oct. 16. In 1976, Ontario was the first North American jurisdiction to require vehicle drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts.

“This government made it mandatory for all children to be secured in a child car safety seat or booster seat when traveling,” Cansfield said in a press release announcing the proposed amendments. “We’re taking it one step further. We want to prevent people from getting into a vehicle that doesn’t have enough seatbelts.”

A recent survey by Transport Canada found Ontario has the second-highest rate of seatbelt use in urban areas in Canada – nearly 93%. That’s above the national average of just over 91%.

At the same time, the latest statistics show about one third of all drivers and passengers killed in motor vehicle collisions were not wearing seatbelts.

“For every 1% increase in seatbelt usage, five lives are saved,” Cansfield said. “That’s why we introduced legislation today to ensure that everyone who gets in a vehicle on an Ontario road is safely secured.”

Are You Driving a Thief Magnet?

The Honda Civic has once again topped the list of the most popular vehicle for car thieves, according to a list compiled by the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

1999 Honda Civic SiR 2-door tops the list of the most frequently stolen vehicles.

The 1999 and 2000 Honda Civic SiR 2-door was the most frequently stolen vehicle for the third year in a row.

Following the top two models was the 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX/WRX STi 4-door, which also “won” the number one spot on the highest theft claims costs list.

Richard Dubin of the Insurance Bureau of Canada told Canada AM on Wednesday that these vehicles are popular with auto thieves because they all lack an approved electronic immobilizer.

“You’ve got cars like the (Acura) Integra, the (Audi) Quattro, the (Subaru) Impreza and the (Honda) Civic – these are cars that are sporty and desirable, so if they’re easy to steal they’re going to take them,” Dubin said.

An electronic immobilizer requires a special key or small electronic device to start a vehicle’s engine.

When activated, it shuts off one or more parts of the engine’s electrical system. This might include the starter, ignition or fuel system. The device disarms when an authorized security code is received from a transponder during an attempt to start the engine.

Three Dodge Caravans made the top 10 list. Dubin said these vehicles are popular because they are easy to strip and sell for parts.

“Recyclers or wreckers are stealing them in order to sell their transmissions and engines because these cars are 13 or 14 years old and they need replacement parts,” he said.

The Top 10 stolen vehicles are:

  1. 1999 Honda Civic SiR 2-door
  2. 2000 Honda Civic SiR 2-door
  3. 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX/WRX STi 4-door AWD
  4. 1999 Acura Integra 2-door
  5. 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Grand Caravan/Voyager
  6. 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Grand Caravan/Voyager AWD
  7. 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Caravan/Voyager
  8. 1998 Acura Integra 2-door
  9. 2000 Audi TT Quattro 2-door Coupe
  10. 1994 Dodge/Plymouth Shadow/Sundance 2-door Hatchback

Dubin said while some the popular vehicles are stripped for parts, some of the sportier models, such as the Audi, are exported to other countries and sold to unsuspecting consumers.

“They also use these vehicles strictly for transportation, getting from A to B, but there is a significant amount of organized crime involved in all of this,” Dubin said.

Dubin recommends purchasing an “after market” electronic immobilizer that retails for around $400. He says don’t leave your car unattended with the keys in the ignition and “always protect your keys.”

“If you have an immobilizer and they get your keys, you’re immobilizer is no use to you. Even in your house, don’t leave them where you can see them in the kitchen window because that will incite break ins. Don’t leave extra keys in the car and park your car at night in well-lit areas,” he said.

The least stolen vehicles were:

  1. 2003 Buick Le Sabre 4-door
  2. 2003 Cadillac Deville 4-door
  3. 2002 Ford/Mercury Crown Victoria/Grand Marquis 4-door
  4. 2000 Saturn SW1 Wagon
  5. 2000 Lincoln Continental 4-door
  6. 2000 Volvo S70 4-door
  7. 1998 Hyundai Accent 4-door
  8. 1997 Buick Regal 4-door
  9. 1996 Buick Park Avenue 4-door
  10. 2001 Toyota Highlander 4-door 2WD

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates auto theft costs each policyholder an additional $48 on their insurance premium.

Auto theft costs Canadians approximately $1.2 billion per year when health care, court, policing, legal and out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles, are taken into consideration.

“Car thieves have absolutely no regard for public safety and the rules of the road. Every year approximately 40 people die and 65 are injured as a direct result of auto theft. When it’s in the hands of a thief, a stolen car is like a loaded gun,” the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s website reads.