The last time you used a taxi, a ride-hailing service or jumped in the backseat of a friend’s car, did you buckle up? If you did, good for you, but you are in the minority. Four out of 5 adults surveyed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) say they don’t bother to use a seat belt for short trips. Even more troubling, many who responded said that one of the reasons they don’t buckle up is the false idea that the back seat is safer; others say they simply forget. False assumptions and forgetfulness can have tragic results: IIHS says that more than half of the people who die in passenger vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year are unbelted. Safety belts saved 13,941 lives during 2015.
Drivers: Require rear seat belt use
Many front seat riders have gotten in the habit of seat belt use because it is mandated by law in most states, but back seat use is only required by law in 29 states. Plus, many cars have reminders, warnings and alerts for front-seat use, but such reminders usually aren’t available for back seat passengers. If you’re a passenger, try to make this a habit. If you are the driver, it’s up to you to enforce it with your passengers.
“The odds of death for a belted driver seated directly in front of an unrestrained passenger in a serious head-on crash was 2.27 times higher … than if seated in front of a restrained passenger. In contrast, a belted driver seated in front of an unrestrained passenger in a driver-side lateral-impact crash had no increase in mortality over a driver with a restrained rear-seat passenger…”
If you are buckled in as the driver, but the passenger who is riding behind you is not, they can be very dangerous. In an accident, their body can be propelled into you or other passengers, causing severe, preventable injuries. As a driver, you should mandate backseat safety belt use – if the passenger complains, tell them it is not only for their safety, but for your safety and the safety of others in the car, too!
If you use premium gasoline for your car, you may want to rethink that. Unless your car manufacturer specifically designates the use of premium fuel, you are wasting your money, according to new fuel performance research by AAA. How much money? A whopping $2.1 billion in the aggregate. Yikes. Here’s a summary of what they learned:
“According to new AAA research, American drivers wasted more than $2.1 billion dollars in the last year by using premium-grade gasoline in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel. With 16.5 million U.S. drivers having used premium fuel despite the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation in the last 12 months, AAA conducted a comprehensive fuel evaluation to determine what, if any, benefit the practice offers to consumers. After using industry-standard test protocols designed to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy and emissions, AAA found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.”
Why do drivers pick premium fuel when they don’t need it? It essentially comes down to the power of advertising and language: “Premium” sounds better to many people – and it sounds like it would be beneficial to your car. But the research shows that, ““Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating.”
AAA says that if you want to upgrade to better fuel, drivers should choose TOP TIER gas rather than a higher octane. Here’s a AAA Premium Fuel Fact Sheet that explains the research and offers more recommendations.
If you’re in the market for a new car, here’s an invaluable research tool: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for 2016. There are a lot of new vehicle features and amenities that are fun to shop for and compare, but what’s more important than safety? Fortunately, IIHS has you covered. They issue annual awards that emphasize both crash avoidance and “crashworthiness,” or how a vehicle will fare when put through actual crash tests. For 2016, IIHS picked 61 cars for Top Safety Pick and 48 of those qualified for Top Safety+, the highest award. Here’s the criteria and a short video about the awards.
To qualify for 2016 Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn good ratings in five crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — as well as a basic rating for front crash prevention.
To qualify for 2016 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.
The IIHS offers a variety of resources to help you in your research. Here are a few that we found particularly helpful.
“A list of affordable used vehicles that meet important safety criteria for teen drivers. There are two tiers of recommended vehicles, best choices and good choices. Prices range from about $3,000 to nearly $20,000, so parents can buy the most safety for their money, whatever their budget.”
Crash avoidance features are rapidly making their way into the vehicle fleet. Six of the most common new technologies are forward collision warning, autobrake, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive headlights and blind spot detection. IIHS offers a tool to find out which models come with which features.
File this under “dubious distinctions”: Boston drivers, you are the worst! Your drivers are 157% more likely to get in a crash than the national average – they get in about one accident every three years. In a list of the 200 largest cities, you come in dead last at #200.
Worcester, you aren’t much better – you come in at #199. And no smirking from you, Springfield – you have the 5th worst driving record!
The honors for the city with the nation’s safest drivers goes to Kansas City, where drivers are 24.8% less likely than the average U.S. driver to get in a crash.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced its Top Vehicle Safety Picks for 2012. There are 18 new picks for a total of 115 winners in the following categories: 69 cars, 38 SUVs, 5 minivans, and 3 pickups. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations. The ratings, which cover all 4 of the most common kinds of crashes, help shoppers pick vehicles that offer the highest levels of crash protection.
Here’s a handy list of the 2012 Top Safety Picks with links to the ratings.
If you will be shopping for a new vehicle, you may also want to consult this list: Insurance Losses by Make & Model. And you will also want to talk to your local insurance agent.