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How Safe Is That New Car?

February 19, 2019

John Jastremski Presents:

How Safe Is That New Car?

 

If you’re in the market for a new car, safety should certainly be one of your concerns. Although every car must meet minimum federal safety requirements, the degree of safety can still vary considerably among different automobiles. You should consider several factors when evaluating a car’s safety. Look for the car that offers the best safety features, given your pocketbook, your passengers, and the kind of driving you do most.
How well does the vehicle handle a sharp turn?

You might want to begin your safety evaluation with rollover risk–the chance that your vehicle will tip over when you make a sudden turn. Large vehicles, such as minivans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks, have a greater risk of rolling over than smaller vehicles. The heavier the vehicle, the more likely it is to roll over. Keep in mind that the number of people in the vehicle also affects the weight. The more people in the vehicle, the more likely it is to roll over. You can search the Web or a periodicals index at your local library to get the most recent statistics on rollover risk.
Sometimes bigger is better

When it comes to car crashes, larger and heavier cars tend to be safer for you than smaller, lighter ones. When a heavy car crashes head-on into a lighter car, the heavier car pushes the lighter one back. This motion decreases the force inside the heavier car while increasing the force in the lighter car. Also, larger vehicles usually have bigger occupant compartments, or safety cages. The safety cage in a well-designed car will act like a strong buffer zone around you during a car crash. The more space you have to move around during a crash, the less likely it is that you’ll be injured through contact with the steering wheel, dashboard, or side doors. Although smaller cars usually get better gas mileage and can squeeze into a greater number of parking spaces, you’ll need to weigh these advantages against the safety that larger cars offer.

Each year, as part of the New Car Assessment Program, the government buys new cars and performs crash tests on them. These tests illustrate how well different cars protect front-seat passengers in head-on collisions. The tests are conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To obtain results, check the Internet, consumer magazines, or a periodicals index at your local library.
Don’t overlook the tires

All tires must meet federal safety standards. In addition, all new vehicle tires (except snow tires, spares, and tires for off-road use) are rated for tread wear, traction, and temperature resistance. This grading system is designed to help buyers make relative comparisons among tires. All tire dealers are required to provide you with a booklet explaining these grades and showing the grades of the tires they sell. When buying a new car, don’t just kick the tires–read up on their quality.

After the car is yours, keep maintenance in mind. You should:

  • Maintain the proper air pressure in the tires
  • Check the air pressure monthly and before making a long trip
  • Keep wheels balanced and aligned; rotate tires (front to back) twice a year
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts when driving
  • Make sure there is enough tread on the tire

Buckle up those seat belts

The crashworthiness of a car (i.e., the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a collision) depends on many factors, including the type and quality of seat belts used, and whether the seat belts are used properly. Lap/shoulder seat belts help to keep you in place during a crash, minimizing the chance you’ll hit the steering wheel or dashboard, or be ejected from the vehicle. Some cars have belt crash tensioners, which activate early in a crash to tighten the belt slack and prevent you from moving forward too much. Another feature found in newer cars is adjustable upper belts. These allow you to adjust the shoulder strap according to your size. Rear center seat belts are an added feature that can be used for children in car seats, who are most safely seated in the center of the back seat. When evaluating a car, be sure to check the seat belts.
Does the vehicle provide side air bags?

The federal government requires dual air bags (driver and passenger side) to be installed in all new passenger cars starting in model year 1998 and light trucks starting in model year 1999. In addition, side air bags are being installed in more and more new cars. They are smaller than frontal air bags and are designed to provide protection against contact with car doors in side-impact crashes. Although the primary purpose of air bags is to protect an occupant’s chest, some provide protection for the head, as well. Used together, air bags and seat belts double your protection against head injury compared with that of seat belts alone. If you’re in the market for a new car, consider whether side air bags are offered along with front air bags.

When you get your new car home, remember that children under age 12 should never sit in the front seat when there’s an air bag. Likewise, an infant in a rear-facing car seat should never be placed in the front seat, particularly when air bags are involved. The force of the deploying air bag is so strong that it could severely injure or kill a child. It’s best for children under age 12 to sit in the back seat, preferably in the center. And as for you, be sure your body is at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel in order to avoid injury from a deploying air bag.
Are the vehicle’s headrests fixed or adjustable?

Headrests are required in all new vehicles to keep your head from snapping back during a rear-end collision. Some headrests are fixed, and others are adjustable. They are also different in height and distance from the head. Ideally, these headrests should be directly behind and close to the back of your head. When evaluating a new car for safety, check the headrests to make sure they’re right for you.
Antilock brakes can be a mixed bag

Antilock brakes are found in many cars now. Antilocks automatically pump brakes several times per second to prevent locking and allow the driver to maintain control on wet, slippery roads. Although this sounds great, studies by the federal government, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and various auto manufacturers have concluded that antilock brakes are not as safe as first thought. It’s not clear exactly why this is so. According to one theory (proposed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), many people simply don’t know how to use antilock brakes properly. Most drivers were taught to apply gentle pressure when braking on slippery roads and to pump brakes during a skid. Although this is fine for conventional brakes, you should use continuous, hard pressure on antilock brakes in order for them to work properly. The bottom line? Antilock brakes can be a useful feature, but make sure you know how to use them properly.
A safer car can lower your insurance rates

Owning a safe car can save you money as well as lives. Insurance companies will generally give you a discount on your auto insurance premium if you have air bags or automatic seat belts in your car. Also, the actual rates are lower for bigger cars made with strong materials. There’s a lot to consider when you’re evaluating the safety of a vehicle. It may take time to do your homework, but it will be well worth the effort.

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of John Jastremski, Jeremy Keating, Erik J Larsen, Frank Esposito, Patrick Ray, Robert Welsch, Michael Reese, Brent Wolf, Andy Starostecki and The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

The Retirement Group is not affiliated with nor endorsed by fidelity.com, netbenefits.fidelity.com, hewitt.com, resources.hewitt.com,  access.att.com, ING Retirement, AT&T, Qwest, Chevron, Hughes, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Glaxosmithkline, Merck, Pfizer, Verizon, Bank of America, Alcatel-Lucent or by your employer. We are an independent financial advisory group that specializes in transition planning and lump sum distribution. Please call our office at 800-900-5867 if you have additional questions or need help in the retirement planning process.

John Jastremski is a Representative with FSC Securities and may be reached at www.theretirementgroup.com.

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