On the morning of December 1st, 2000, as I was driving to work, a tractor-trailer rig sideswiped my car on the freeway. The lugnuts of the truck’s wheel gripped the side of my car, lifted it, and threw it off, casting the 1992 Geo Storm headlong into the guard rail at 50 miles per hour. Without proper safety equipment, I’d be dead right now. Instead, the airbag and seatbelt did their jobs; I escaped with minor injuries. Now when I think about buying a car, vehicle safety is one of my top considerations.

Consumer Reports has posted free videos that show actual crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Users can watch frontal offset and side impact tests conducted on over 200 makes and models. (Not all videos show side impact tests.) The Consumer Reports car blog notes:

In watching a few videos, it becomes clear that:

  • Even with the best vehicles, an accident is a brutal event.
  • There are good and bad performing models in every car category.
  • Side and curtain air bags can make a big difference, but results vary.
  • Choosing a poor performing model creates unnecessary risk for you and your family.
  • It is hard to make assumptions about a vehicle or class without watching the tests. Even premium models, for example, can return Marginal performance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has more information on vehicle safety, including vehicle ratings and research summaries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Safe Car site includes crash test and rollover ratings for vehicles since 1990. Much of the content at the Consumer Reports site is behind a paywall, but some related articles are freely available:

Watching these crash test videos makes me squeamish. My car Ford Focus received a Good rating for the frontal offset test, but garnered a Poor in the side impact. The Mini Cooper that I covet (after seeing them all over London) does a little better. But these videos make me want to sell my car and stay home.

[Consumer Reports: Crash-in theater]

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