Let’s review Media Rule #1: the world that you see, hear, and read about in the news is a distorted view of reality.
For instance: do you remember all the news reports about shark attacks a decade ago? The panic was so intense in mid-2001 that TIME magazine dubbed it the “Summer of the Shark.” But later studies revealed that the actual number of unprovoked shark attacks declined in 2001 (from 85 to 76), as did the number of fatal shark attacks (from 12 to 5).
The media distortion phenomenon is playing itself out once again with vehicle airbags. There’s some chatter and hubbub about how these automotive safety features are actually causing more injuries and problems than they solve. But what are the facts about airbags? To find out, let’s turn to the nation’s foremost authority on such matters.
That would be the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The group estimates that between 1990 and 2008, less than 300 people have been killed in low-speed crashes where the front seat airbags deployed (or about 15 per year).
Moreover, about 80% of those deaths were to people who were improperly restrained or belted. This category covers small children who were not properly situated in child restraint seats, or adults who were not wearing seat belts. Airbags are designed to augment the safety provided by seat belts, not to serve as a substitute for them.
Finally, about 90% of airbag-related deaths occurred in vehicles manufactured before 1998. There have been numerous improvements to the design and implementation of airbag safety systems since then. This includes side airbags – which, according to the NHTSA, were not responsible for a single death between 1995 and 2008.
Conversely, the NHTSA estimates that about 28,000 lives were saved due to the successful deployment of airbags over the same time period. The organization claims that people in the front seat of a vehicle with an airbag have about a 30% smaller chance of dying in a crash than they would without the safety system.
As you can see, the evidence is pretty overwhelming: airbags save almost 100 times more lives than they end, and the few airbag fatalities that do occur are usually in older vehicles, or because the victims were not correctly belted or restrained.
Of course, you rarely come across news stories which highlight how well airbags worked in a given wreck. But if there is any hint of a malfunctioning airbag in a motor vehicle collision, you can bet that the news media will let you know about it.
However, if a subsequent investigation rules out the airbag as a cause of death, those same news sources probably won’t inform you about that – or if they do, it will happen very quietly.
Image credits: funz.eu, tusb.stanford.edu, anthonybalducci.blogspot.com, wild941.radio.com.
Tags: safe auto, safeauto, airbags, safety
Blind spots are dangerous, to say the least. A driver can only drive on the information he's given, and sometimes that information is wrong, and you or somebody else pays the price in medical bills and higher auto insurance.
However, most mirrors aren't optimized for driving. There are many reasons for this: mirrors can be knocked out of whack by minor bumps, played with by passengers, or reset by the driver to make up for another mirror. For example, a common problem is a car stuffed full of your friend's stuff to drive to his new apartment. You've blocked the rear-view mirror, so you adjust the driver's side view to make up for it, and you forget to adjust it back.
This happens all the time, and most of the time, people just don't notice. It's a bit like the small noise you hear that you decide is just a trick of your mind, which turns out to be the first warning before a major problem that leaves your car in the shop for weeks; it escapes your attention and only comes clear in hindsight. It's especially problematic because the most common blind spots are toward the back of the car, on either side, meaning that drivers changing lanes will sometimes drive right into somebody who thought they were absolutely visible.
Fortunately, we'll lay out how to get rid of your blind spots. It's simple and you can do it anywhere. Best of all, it'll take less than five minutes.
For the Driver's Side Mirror: Do this parked next to traffic, to give you a good test. Place your head against the driver's side window. Adjust the mirror until you can just barely see your car on the very edge. Settle back into the driver's seat and look at the mirror.
Where before you probably saw a big slice of your car and about half of the lane beyond, you should now see all of the traffic coming behind you!
For the Passenger Mirror: Lean out into the middle of the cabin, as far as possible. Adjust the mirror again, to place just a sliver of your car visible. You should see similar results.
Rear-View Mirror: You don't need us for this one. Just adjust it so that you can see out the back.
And a few tips:
- Keep your mirrors aligned! If your friend uses the rear-view to check her makeup, make sure you get the mirror back in place immediately.
- Never block your rear view. No matter how much your buddy pleads, more moving trips are better than a smash-up.
- Keep your mirrors clean: a little Windex will be just fine.
- And of course, always use your turn signal and check carefully: don't just barrel into one lane or around a corner.
Safe driving, and remember: keep those mirrors where you can see them.
Tags: safe auto, safeauto, mirrors, blindspots
Parents want a car that's cost effective and safe. Teens want a car that isn't a total dorkmobile. And thus does the great argument between parents and teens drag ever on, on used car lots and driveways across the nation.
That doesn't mean, though, that they can't strike a compromise. Here are ten cars that will give everybody at least a little of what they want.
Civics are the kind of car that stick around. Sold since 1972, the Civic has earned a reputation for being tough, but also for being sporty. Even better from a parental perspective, they're safe: the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration has been giving high marks to the Civic for safety for years.
But, most important is the cost. The Civic is a popular car and as a result, there are a lot of them available pretty much anywhere. Even a new Civic is fairly cheap for a new car: it starts at $14,000.
One of the top safety picks by the NHTSA for 2010, the Fusion, available since 2006, also happens to be the Ford stock car for NASCAR and was used to set a land speed record, which should give it cool points while giving you something to discourage your teenager from trying to emulate. The Fusion has only been made since 2006, so while you might be paying slightly more, you've got less chance of buying a junker in disguise.
For the teen who needs space to haul stuff, whether it's band equipment or friends to school, the Forester is a good choice. Consumer Reports loves its reliability, and it's gotten the highest rating for safety from governments around the world. Plus, it's been around since 1992, so you have plenty of models at plenty of prices to choose from.
Maybe you can't keep your teen from a sports car...but you can at least direct them towards a safe and cost-effective one. Popular on the rally circuit for years, the Celica is a popular coupe with high reliability and safety ratings. But, it is a sports car, so your teen should be prepared for auto insurance a little higher than they might otherwise expect. The Celica was discontinued in 2005, so if you want a new one, consider the similar Scion tC.
It may not be a Miata, but the 3, introduced to replace the Protege in 2004, quickly developed a reputation for being surprisingly stylish for a small car, while being both affordable and safe. Reviews often mention that it feels more like an upscale sports sedan instead of a cheaper small car...which helps when your teen first gets behind the wheel.
The classic car for generations of teenagers (and adults), the Camry has a richly earned reputation for reliability and safety. Also, you can't throw a rock at a used car lot without hitting one, so used prices are well within your budget.
Called the Jazz in some markets, the Fit has been available since 2001 and rolls all of Honda's reliability and cost-effectiveness into a little package that's almost cute and among the safest cars out there. Boys may roll their eyes, but for girls who have things to haul, the Fit might just be a good..well, fit. Just ensure the car was properly recalled: the window switch had an issue that Honda needed to fix for 2002-2008 Fits.
The first crossover SUV, the RAV 4 combines the hauling ability of a full-sized “suburban assault vehicle” with the safety and handling ability of a sedan. It has a much better safety rating than any full-size SUV, and ranks with the Forester in terms of reliability. Plus, it's been available since 1994, so used models are everywhere and usually in good condition.
The Altima is Nissan's flagship sedan, and has roots going back to 1957 in Japan. Designed to be a reliable family car, the Altima is American-made, and thus even new Altimas are going to cost less than cars that need to be shipped in. It's held the highest possible safety ratings for decades, and many Altimas can stay on the road for decades with a little maintenance.
Rounding out our top ten is the Impreza, the compact car of choice for years. Reliable, cheap, and safe, the Impreza has it all...including multiple model designs, so you can choose between sedan and hatchback.
As always, though, there are rules you should follow no matter what car you buy. Check the dealer against reports from the Better Business Bureau, and always run a Carfax report on any car you're considering. Also, approach car dealers warily, and always be ready to walk away, especially from a deal that seems too good to be true.
Tags: safe auto, safeauto, first car, cheap
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There are many bad drivers out there on the road. Play It Safe with helpful tips, articles, videos, and of course, examples of what not to do. Brought to you by SafeAuto Insurance Company.