Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where to find car- and truck safety ratings online

Looking for crash ratings and other tests of cars and trucks?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does vehicle tests, and has recently launched a new series of rollover-safety tests based on roof strength. It's easy to search for test results by make and model.

The ratings are closely watched by manufacturers, who often make changes based on test results. Ford, for example, recently made design changes to strengthen the outside door handles on the Ford Fiesta -- now designated a "Top Safety Pick" by IIHS -- to reduce the chance of doors springing open in side-impact crashes.

Last year, in honor of its 50th anniversay, IIHS made this striking video, comparing the crashworthiness -- nearly head to head -- of a 1959 Chevy Bel Air and a 2009 Chevy Malibu. The video's pretty amazing.

The other must-go place to look at crash tests is SaferCar.gov, where the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posts the results of its crash test and rollover ratings. It also posts information about safety recalls, defect investigations, and how consumers can file complaints about suspected safety problems with vehicles.