Kia Cadenza earns Top Safety Pick+

ARLINGTON, Va. — The 2017 Kia Cadenza, a large car, earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award, thanks to good crashworthiness ratings, a superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable headlights.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The 2017 Kia Cadenza, a large car, earns the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest award, thanks to good crashworthiness ratings, a superior-rated front crash prevention system and acceptable headlights.

The redesigned model was the first Cadenza to be tested by IIHS for small overlap front protection. In the test, which replicates what happens when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object, the driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of 4 inches at the parking brake pedal. The airbags and safety belt worked well together to control the dummy's movement, and measures taken from the dummy showed a low risk of significant injuries.

The Cadenza earns a good rating in the small overlap front test, as well in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.

The car's optional front crash prevention system avoided collisions in IIHS track tests at 25 mph and 12 mph. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The LED lights that come with the Limited and Technology trims earn an acceptable headlight rating, with fair to good visibility in all scenarios. The halogen lights that come with the Premium trim earn a poor rating.

To earn the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five crashworthiness tests, an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating, and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

Read more: Kia Cadenza earns Top Safety Pick+

STATUS REPORT: Volume 52, Number 2

When Cathy Danial was shopping for a vehicle for her son, Joey, she couldn't have foreseen the moment four years later when another driver would hit Joey's SUV, causing it to spin around, leave the road and strike a tree.

What she did know was that anything could happen. That's why she researched safety ratings and chose to spend a little more money for a vehicle that would offer good protection in a crash.

Joey Danial ended up with a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, which is what he was driving when the crash occurred on a four-lane Michigan road earlier this year. He wasn't hurt, but the Santa Fe was totaled.

Despite the frightening circumstances of the crash, none of the impacts were severe enough to prompt airbags to deploy. Still, the outcome reinforced the Danials' confidence in the 2007 Santa Fe. They replaced it with the same model.

"I certainly feel like my car did a pretty good job, considering the damage to the car versus the damage to me, which was nothing," Joey Danial said recently.

IIHS wants to help other families have that kind of confidence in their young driver's first vehicle — without having to experience a serious crash. The latest update of the Institute's list of recommended used vehicles for teens includes 49 "best choices," starting under $20,000, and 82 "good choices," starting under $10,000. (The latter category includes the 2007 Santa Fe.)

Teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but they often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don't offer adequate protection in a crash. To help families find safer vehicles that fit within their budgets, IIHS began publishing a list of recommended used vehicles for teens in 2014 (see Status Report special issue: vehicles for teens, July 16, 2014).

This year, IIHS is applying more stringent criteria to both lists, as recent safety improvements to new vehicles have percolated down to lower-cost used vehicles.

For the first time, small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.

"Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles, Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+, we can now point used vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before," says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there's no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver."

Prices for listed vehicles are provided by Kelley Blue Book, based on estimates for a private-party purchase near the Institute's Arlington, Va., headquarters.

"Choosing a safe vehicle for your teen is of paramount importance, and settling on a vehicle your family can afford is also very important," says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

"Kelley Blue Book provides you with updated vehicle prices and values that are unique to your area, so KBB.com is a great site to visit as you finalize your buying decision."

Rules of thumb

Both lists follow a few basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:

  • High horsepower and young drivers don't mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. Stick with the base engine.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.

Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.

Models on this year's good choices list earn good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the best choices list must also have a good rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicles on either list must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under NHTSA's old rating scheme, which was used through the 2010 model year.

Check for recalls

Before purchasing a used vehicle, it's critical to check for outstanding recalls. You can enter the Vehicle Identification Number at nhtsa.gov/recalls. It’s also a good idea to notify the manufacturer once you purchase the vehicle, so the company can make sure you receive future recall notices.

Consumers should keep in mind that the ongoing recall of Takata airbags affects a large number of vehicles. Since the risk of airbag malfunction increases over time and also depends on the climate where the vehicle is kept for most of the year, not all affected vehicles have been recalled yet. NHTSA recommends checking its recall page every six months or so.

Plan ahead for a hand-me-down vehicle

In recent years, front crash prevention has been part of the criteria for IIHS safety awards for new vehicles. Although such systems are likely to be valuable for inexperienced drivers, they are usually available only as optional equipment, making it difficult to locate a used vehicle that has the feature. The same goes for good- or acceptable-rated headlights. IIHS began headlight ratings last year, but many vehicles have multiple headlight systems with varying ratings.

Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.

Read more: STATUS REPORT: Volume 52, Number 2

2017 Honda CR-V earns top honors from IIHS

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Honda CR-V qualifies for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award.

ARLINGTON, Va. — The redesigned Honda CR-V qualifies for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award.

Like the previous generation of the small SUV, the 2017 CR-V earns across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings. It is available with an optional front crash prevention system that earns a superior rating and acceptable-rated headlights.

When equipped with front crash prevention, the CR-V avoided collisions in the Institute's 12 mph and 25 mph track tests. The system also has a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The LED headlights that come with the CR-V's Touring trim earn an acceptable rating. The halogen lights on the model's other trim levels are rated marginal.

To earn the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. It also must have an available front crash prevention system with an advanced or superior rating and headlights that earn an acceptable or good rating.

Read more: 2017 Honda CR-V earns top honors from IIHS

New used vehicle recommendations for teens

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is applying more stringent criteria to its list of recommended used vehicles for teens, as recent safety improvements have percolated down to lower-cost used cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups.

Teenagers are among the riskiest drivers, but they often end up with inexpensive vehicles that don't offer adequate protection in a crash. To help families find safer vehicles that fit within their budgets, IIHS began publishing a list of recommended used vehicles for teens in 2014.

The latest update includes 49 "best choices," starting under $20,000, and 82 "good choices," starting under $10,000.

The latest update includes 49 "best choices," starting under $20,000, and 82 "good choices," starting under $10,000.

For the first time this year, small overlap front crash protection has been factored in for the best choices section of the list. And the bar has been raised for the less expensive good choices as well, with better side and head restraint ratings required.

"Just as we are always updating the criteria for our awards for new vehicles, Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+, we can now point used vehicle buyers toward even safer models than before," says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "Good crash protection is more affordable than ever, so there's no need to skimp on safety when it comes to a vehicle for a young driver."

Prices for listed vehicles are provided by Kelley Blue Book, based on estimates for a private-party purchase near the Institute's Arlington, Va., headquarters.

"Choosing a safe vehicle for your teen is of paramount importance, and settling on a vehicle your family can afford is also very important," says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Kelley Blue Book provides you with updated vehicle prices and values that are unique to your area, so KBB.com is a great site to visit as you finalize your buying decision."

Both lists follow a few basic principles, which should always be taken into account when shopping for a vehicle for a teenager:

  • High horsepower and young drivers don't mix. Teens may be tempted to test the limits of a powerful engine. Vehicles that come only with powerful engines have been left off the lists, but some recommended models have high-horsepower versions. Stick with the base engine.
  • Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. There are no minicars or small cars on the lists. Small SUVs are OK; they weigh about the same as a midsize car.
  • Electronic stability control is an essential feature. This technology, which cuts single-vehicle fatal crash risk nearly in half, has been required on new vehicles since the 2012 model year. It helps a driver maintain control on curves and slippery roads. All listed vehicles have the feature standard.

Beyond those basics, parents should seek out a vehicle with the highest crash test ratings they can afford.

Models on this year's good choices list earn good ratings in the Institute's moderate overlap front, side and head restraint tests. Vehicles on the best choices list must also have a good rating for roof strength to protect in rollover crashes and a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when the front, driver-side corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a tree or utility pole.

If rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicles on either list must earn 4 or 5 stars overall or 4 or 5 stars in the front and side tests under NHTSA's old rating scheme, which was used through the 2010 model year.

Before purchasing a used vehicle, it's critical to check for outstanding recalls. You can enter the Vehicle Identification Number at nhtsa.gov/recalls. It's also a good idea to notify the manufacturer once you purchase the vehicle, so the company can make sure you receive future recall notices.

Consumers should keep in mind that the ongoing recall of Takata airbags affects a large number of vehicles. Since the risk of airbag malfunction increases over time and also depends on the climate where the vehicle is kept for most of the year, not all affected vehicles have been recalled yet. NHTSA recommends checking its recall page every six months or so.

In recent years, front crash prevention has been part of the criteria for IIHS safety awards for new vehicles. Although such systems are likely to be valuable for inexperienced drivers, they are usually available only as optional equipment, making it difficult to locate a used vehicle that has the feature. The same goes for good- or acceptable-rated headlights. IIHS began headlight ratings last year, but many vehicles have multiple headlight systems with varying ratings.

Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.

Parents of children who are still years away from driving should plan ahead if they want their future driver to benefit from front crash prevention and good-rated headlights. If possible, when buying the next family vehicle, choose an IIHS Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ with at least 4 or 5 stars from NHTSA, and consider handing it down to your teenager when the time comes.

Read more: New used vehicle recommendations for teens

STATUS REPORT: Volume 52, Number 3

The risk of dying in a crash in a late-model vehicle has gone up slightly, as a stronger economy has led drivers to take to the road more often and in more dangerous ways. Meanwhile, a new study predicts traffic deaths will fall only slightly over the coming years, given current expectations for the economy.

The overall rate of driver deaths for 2014 models is 30 per million registered vehicle years, up from 28 for 2011 models (see "Saving lives: Improved vehicle designs bring down death rates," Jan. 29, 2015). The death rate for individual vehicles varies widely, from 0 for 11 vehicles to 104 per million registered vehicle years for the Hyundai Accent, a minicar.

The overall rate of driver deaths for 2014 models is 30 per million registered vehicle years, up from 28 for 2011 models. The death rate for individual vehicles varies widely, from 0 for 11 vehicles to 104 per million registered vehicle years for the Hyundai Accent, a minicar.

The last time IIHS calculated driver death rates, the overall rate had fallen by more than a third over three years. Researchers found that the drop was driven largely by improved vehicle designs and safety technology. Such improvements have continued, but the new results show that, by themselves, they won't be enough to eliminate traffic deaths.

"Vehicles continue to improve, performing better and better in crash tests," says David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. "The latest driver death rates show there is a limit to how much these changes can accomplish without other kinds of efforts."

The new driver death rates are based on deaths that occurred during 2012-15. The increase in the overall driver death rate for 2014 models is likely connected to the increased number of fatalities toward the end of that period.

Falling unemployment, rising crash deaths

Road deaths have been trending downward since the early 1970s, with an especially large dip beginning in 2008. However, that changed in 2015, with deaths increasing 7 percent over the previous year. Preliminary data indicate the toll increased in 2016 as well. In the new study, Charles Farmer, IIHS vice president for research and statistical services, looked at what economic forecasts can tell us about traffic fatalities over the coming years.

An increase in traffic deaths is a predictable downside to an improving economy. As unemployment falls, both vehicle miles traveled and crash deaths increase (see "Stronger economy can be bad news for highway safety," Dec. 10, 2015). In a stronger economy, people tend to drive more. Riskier, discretionary driving — for example, going out to dinner or traveling for vacation — is affected by economic fluctuations even more than day-to-day commuting. Economic conditions also affect how fast people drive.

An increase in traffic deaths is a predictable downside to an improving economy. As unemployment falls, both vehicle miles traveled and crash deaths increase. In a stronger economy, people tend to drive more. Riskier, discretionary driving — for example, going out to dinner or traveling for vacation — is affected by economic fluctuations even more than day-to-day commuting. Economic conditions also affect how fast people drive.

To estimate how the annual death toll might change in the coming years, Farmer designed a statistical model based on the connection between traffic deaths and unemployment since 1990. The model also includes calendar year, thereby accounting for safer vehicle designs and other highway safety improvements that have taken hold over time.

Farmer found that a decline in the unemployment rate from 6 percent to 5 percent is associated with a 2 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled. That jump in exposure leads to an equivalent 2 percent jump in fatalities. However, after accounting for the change in miles traveled, the decline in the unemployment rate is associated with an additional 2 percent increase in road deaths. In other words, only half of the effect of an improved economy on traffic deaths is due to increased driving.   

Given the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' forecast of a 1.7 percent annual reduction in unemployment from 2014 to 2024, he predicts that the recent increase in deaths will have peaked in 2016 and estimates there will be approximately 34,400 traffic deaths in 2024, compared with 35,092 in 2015.

If unemployment doesn't change as predicted but remains steady at the 2016 rate of 4.9 percent, there will be 33,600 traffic deaths, Farmer estimates. In either case, the projected
number of crash deaths for 2024 is still higher than the 32,744 deaths seen in 2014.

The recent surge in crash avoidance technologies, along with the development of autonomous vehicles that in theory could eliminate all crashes, has the potential to bring down crash rates. However, it will take decades before such technologies are present in all new vehicles. Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will be sharing the road with conventional vehicles for some time (see Status Report special issue: autonomous vehicles, Nov. 10, 2016).

The recent surge in crash avoidance technologies, along with the development of autonomous vehicles that in theory could eliminate all crashes, has the potential to bring down crash rates. However, it will take decades before such technologies are present in all new vehicles. Vehicles with varying degrees of automation will be sharing the road with conventional vehicles for some time.

"Improvements in vehicle technology are important, but we also need to address old problems such as speeding and driving while impaired," Farmer points out.

U.S. crash deaths and predictions of model based on unemployment, 1990-2024

Tiny vehicles, high death rates

As in the past, the driver death rates show that the smallest vehicles are the most dangerous ones. Among the 10 vehicles with the highest rates, five are minicars and three are small cars. These vehicles don't protect occupants as well as larger ones, so their presence at the top of the "worst" list isn't surprising.

Among vehicle categories, 4-door minicars have the highest overall death rate of 87, while 4-wheel-drive large luxury SUVs have the lowest with 6.

Despite the increase in the overall rate, the worst vehicles actually saw some improvement. The 2014 Hyundai Accent's death rate of 104 compares with 120 for the 2011 Accent. The worst vehicle among the 2011 models was the Kia Rio with a rate of 149. The 2014 Rio's death rate is 102. Both models were redesigned in 2012, and their lower death rates may reflect the better crash-test performance of the newer designs.

IIHS has been publishing death rates per registered vehicle year by make and model since 1989 (see Status Report special issue: death rates, Nov. 25, 1989). The rates include only driver deaths because all vehicles on the road have drivers, while not all of them have passengers or the same number of passengers. Fatality counts are taken from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and registration data are from IHS Automotive. The calculated rates are adjusted for driver age and gender.

IIHS has been publishing death rates per registered vehicle year by make and model since 1989. The rates include only driver deaths because all vehicles on the road have drivers, while not all of them have passengers or the same number of passengers. Fatality counts are taken from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and registration data are from IHS Automotive.  The calculated rates are adjusted for driver age and gender.

Although the numbers reflect 2014 models, data from earlier models as far back as 2011 are included if the vehicles weren't substantially redesigned before 2014. Including older, equivalent vehicles increases the exposure and thus the reliability of the results. To be included, a vehicle must have had at least 100,000 registered vehicle years of exposure during 2012-15 or at least 20 deaths. 

See complete driver death rates by make and model on our desktop site.
Driver death rates by vehicle style and size
2014 and equivalent earlier models, 2012-15
  Overall driver deaths
per million registered vehicle years
Multiple-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
rollovers
CARS 39 24 15 5
4-DOOR        
mini 87 59 27 11
small 43 29 13 4
midsize 39 24 14 5
large 38 19 20 7
2-DOOR        
mini 36 20 17 13
small 48 26 22 12
midsize 31 15 17 4
large 80 45 34 15
SPORTS        
midsize 54 24 31 12
large 49 23 26 10
LUXURY        
midsize 17 7 10 2
large 19 9 11 6
very large 20 13 7 0
STATION WAGONS        
mini 61 38 23 11
small 38 24 15 4
midsize 16 12 3 1
MINIVANS 19 13 6 2
SUVs 21 12 8 4
4-WHEEL DRIVE        
small 22 14 7 3
midsize 16 7 9 5
large 21 11 9 2
very large 30 18 11 5
2-WHEEL DRIVE        
small 29 18 10 4
midsize 29 20 9 4
large 22 11 12 6
very large 16 16 0 0
4-WHEEL DRIVE LUXURY        
small 8 8 0 0
midsize 7 5 2 1
large 6 5 1 1
very large 18 9 9 0
2-WHEEL DRIVE LUXURY        
midsize 13 9 4 1
PICKUPS 26 14 13 6
4-WHEEL DRIVE        
small 22 8 14 5
large 27 15 13 5
very large 27 12 16 9
2-WHEEL DRIVE        
small 24 14 11 4
large 25 16 9 3
very large 28 17 12 9
Lowest rates of driver deaths
Fewer than 8 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years,
2014 and equivalent earlier models, 2012-15
      Overall driver deaths per million
registered vehicle years
Multiple-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
rollovers
Audi A6 4WD luxury car large 0 0 0 0
Audi Q7 4WD luxury SUV large 0 0 0 0
BMW 535i/is 2WD luxury car large 0 0 0 0
BMW 535xi 4WD luxury car large 0 0 0 0
Jeep Cherokee 4WD SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Lexus CT 200h luxury car midsize 0 0 0 0
Lexus RX 350 2WD luxury SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Mazda CX-9 2WD SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4WD luxury SUV midsize 0 0 0 0
Toyota Tacoma Double Cab long bed 4WD pickup small 0 0 0 0
Volkswagen Tiguan 2WD SUV small 0 0 0 0
Lexus RX 350 4WD luxury SUV midsize 2 2 0 0
Ford Explorer 4WD SUV midsize 4 3 1 0
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan 2WD luxury car large 4 0 4 4
Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan 4WD luxury car large 5 5 0 0
Audi Q5 4WD luxury SUV midsize 7 4 4 0
Chevrolet Suburban 1500 2WD SUV very large 7 7 0 0
Chevrolet Volt 4-door car small 7 7 0 0
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class 4WD luxury SUV midsize 7 7 0 0
Nissan Pathfinder 4WD luxury SUV midsize 7 0 7 7
Toyota Venza 4WD SUV midsize 7 7 0 0
2WD: 2-wheel drive; 4WD: 4-wheel drive
highest rates of driver deaths
More than 58 driver deaths per million registered vehicle years,
2014 and equivalent earlier models, 2012-15
      Overall driver deaths per million
registered vehicle years
Multiple-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
crashes
Single-vehicle
rollovers
Hyundai Accent sedan 4-door car mini 104 71 33 22
Kia Rio sedan 4-door car mini 102 80 16 5
Scion tC 2-door car small 101 46 58 27
Chevrolet Spark 4-door car mini 96 69 27 18
Nissan Versa 4-door car mini 95 61 35 14
Ford Fiesta sedan 4-door car mini 83 57 25 4
Kia Soul station wagon small 82 58 26 17
Dodge Challenger 2-door car large 81 51 29 7
Nissan Titan Crew Cab short bed 4WD pickup large 73 15 62 30
Nissan Sentra 4-door car small 72 45 25 9
Ford Focus sedan 4-door car small 68 50 15 5
Chrysler 200 4-door car midsize 67 42 24 11
Hyundai Genesis coupe 2-door car midsize 67 19 49 12
Ford Fiesta station wagon mini 63 36 30 10
Hyundai Accent station wagon mini 63 47 14 14
Mitsubishi Lancer 2WD 4-door car small 63 53 6 6
Volkswagen Golf 4-door car small 63 63 0 0
Chevrolet Impala 4-door car large 60 38 21 7
Dodge Avenger 2WD 4-door car midsize 60 41 20 7
Ford Mustang convertible sports car midsize 60 50 6 0
Nissan Maxima 4-door car midsize 59 40 17 5
2WD: 2-wheel drive; 4WD: 4-wheel drive

Read more: STATUS REPORT: Volume 52, Number 3

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