Car owners may soon find it more difficult to find cheaper car insurance if the plans of two major research bodies to upgrade their safety ratings take effect. Since auto insurance companies base premiums primarily on risk, tougher safety ratings can have negative effects on most car models’ assessment.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS is the insurance industry’s main safety research arm. It is responsible for testing how safe cars are and for setting the safety standards. Insurance providers rely heavily on the findings of the IIHS. At present, the institute’s rating system has three major levels, “good”, “acceptable”, and “marginal”. Aside from the ratings, the IIHS also selects its “top safety pick” from many vehicle types and brands that researchers believe are among the safest cars in production.
However, the IIHS has recently announced that it would not give vehicles with less than the “good” rating with the “top safety pick” honor when it comes to roof strength. Researchers at the institute stressed the importance of the cars’ roof strength and durability, particularly if the vehicles turn turtle during an accident. This would mean that the even if a particular car passes with flying colors in other safety aspects, it cannot be chosen as the institute’s “top safety pick” if it fails to garner a “good” rating when it comes to roof strength and safety.
The federal government’s safety research body, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), also announce that it would be introducing new changes to its safety standards. The NHTSA said that 2011 car models would be subjected to stricter testing to assess side impact damage and safety. The safety institute’s testing procedures will also be improved to further raise the NHTSA’s standards. Researchers and the agency’s officials say that the new changes would allow the NHTSA to improve its assessment of car safety based on new factors like side impact damage and injury reduction.
As an expected result of the sweeping changes at the NHTSA, fewer car models are expected to garner the agency’s top ratings. The safety body would also be more selective in choosing vehicles for its top safety pick awards.
Industry experts contend that with the announcements, car owners can find it harder to find more affordable insurance. Nevertheless, they point out that the new changes can provide motorists better opportunity and more choices when it comes to selecting the best vehicles for safety.