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Top 10 Safest Cars to Drive in the U.S. in 2011? – It’s Not That Easy Now

In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration instituted tougher crash testing protocols designed to assign a single rating to each automobile. The new five-star system is intended to make it easier for consumers to compare vehicles based on their safety profile. Ratings were also updated to include the latest developments in warning technologies, including such systems as lane departure and forward collision alerts.

Fifty-five vehicles were initially put through the new testing regimen with others added throughout the year. The first cars, SUVs, vans and trucks to be tested were:

Passenger Cars

  • Audi A4
  • BMW 5 Series
  • Buick Lucerne
  • Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu
  • Dodge Caliber
  • Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Taurus
  • Honda Accord and Civic
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Infiniti M37
  • Kia Forte and Optima
  • Mazda 6
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Nissan Altima, Sentra and Versa
  • Toyota Camry, Corolla and Prius
  • Volkswagen Jetta


  • Acura MDX
  • Chevrolet Tahoe, Traverse and Equinox
  • Ford Edge and Escape
  • Honda CR-V and Pilot
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Kia Sorento and Soul
  • Lexus RX 350
  • Nissan Murano and Rogue
  • Subaru Forester and Outback
  • Toyota Highlander, RAV4 and Venza
  • Volvo XC60


  • Honda Odyssey
  • Toyota Sienna


  • Chrysler’s Ram 1500 Crew and Quad Cab models
  • Ford F-150 Super Cab and Super Crew Cab
  • Ford Ranger Extended Cab
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended and Crew Cab
  • Toyota’s Tacoma and Tundra Double Cab

Five-Star NHTSA-Rated Vehicles for 2011

After undergoing federal testing, the following models were among those to receive an overall five-star rating, designating them as among the safest cars currently on America’s roadways:

  • Acura MDX
  • Audi A4
  • Audi S4
  • BMW 5 Series
  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Chevrolet Cruze
  • Chevrolet Malibu
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Ford Taurus
  • GMC Yukon
  • Honda Accord
  • Honda Pilot
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Infiniti M37
  • Infiniti M56
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Kia Optima
  • Kia Sorento
  • Nissan LEAF
  • Nissan Versa
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Subaru Outback
  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Sienna

Consumers can visit and click on “Vehicle Shoppers” to access the “5-Star Rating” menu. From there the 2011-2012 ratings are searchable by model, class, and manufacturer. There is also a mechanism to compare safety ratings and to search earlier ratings going back to 1990.

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Advanced Safety Technologies 

The vehicles that consistently performed the highest on the government tests not only exhibited high structural integrity (for instance roof strength for rollover safety), but also utilized cutting-edge intelligent safety systems. These included technologies for blind spot monitoring, lane detection, night vision, proximity alerts, intelligent cruise control, and back-up cameras.

Of these technologies, back-up cameras have proven so instrumental in protecting pedestrians and preventing “fender bender” accidents in parking lots and on city streets that the NHTSA is considering making the cameras mandatory in all vehicles as early as the 2014 model year.

Airbags are, of course, the staple of vehicle safety systems, and are augmented by enhanced technologies for rollover detection, shut-off systems to stop the flow of fuel in the event of a crash, traction and tire pressure monitoring, brakeforce distribution, anti-lock brakes, and many other “under the hood” sensors that make our vehicles more actively “aware” than ever before.

Insurance Negotiations 

In the vast majority of cases, really cheap auto insurance rates are the result of negotiation between you, the consumer, and your insurer. A vehicle with a high safety profile will be cheaper to insure from the beginning, but if you can intelligently argue the case that you bought a car specifically because it was rigorously tested (and performed well) under the more stringent federal guidelines, you may well be able to save more money.

Don’t neglect to point out optional features on the vehicle like a rear view camera. The very fact that you can list off your car’s safety systems will likely impress your insurance agent, and, if you paid money for something extra, like the camera, that clearly says safety is first and foremost in your mind. Pair that with a clean driving record, and you’re well on the way to affordable, inexpensive car insurance.

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