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Mortality risk lower for drivers of cars that perform well in side-impact tests

Posted On Fri, January 21, 2011 A new report shows accident tests performed on cars to see how they'd fare in the event of a crash have real-world applicability.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorists in cars that rated good in side-impact tests are 70 percent less likely to die in an accident than people who drive in cars that perform poorly in side-impact tests. In 2009, 27 percent of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths were side-impact.

"This was our first look at how our ratings correlate with actual crash data since we started side tests in 2003, and the numbers confirm that these are meaningful ratings," said David Zuby, chief researching officer for the IIHS.

Middling safety ratings, like cars rated "marginal" or "acceptable" fared slightly worse, with drivers being 49 percent and 64 percent less likely to die, respectively.

IIHS tested the toughness of cars in side-impact tests by using a 3,000-pound deformable barrier that would smash into the side of cars. At the point of impact, the barriers were travelling at 31 miles per hour.

How expensive a car is factors into auto insurers' determination of what a policy will cost. Similarly, the safety of a vehicle factors into policy rates as well. For example, insurers often give discounted rates for cars that have airbags, anti-lock breaks, tire-pressure monitoring and other safety features.

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