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Survey reveals B.C. car buyers consider cost before safety

February 8, 2012

cost before safety

A recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ICBC found that only 32 per cent of car buyers in B.C. named safety as one of their top three considerations when deciding which vehicle to buy, while 48 per cent named price and 42 per cent named fuel efficiency.
The survey further revealed that most car buyers primarily take standard safety features into consideration, rather than newer cutting edge technologies. When asked which safety features are most important when buying a vehicle, 57 per cent said airbags, 23 per cent said anti-lock brakes (ABS), 18 per cent said brakes in general and 10 per cent said various seatbelt features.

While all of these are important safety features, there are many newer technologies that also help reduce crashes and injuries, such as electronic stability control (ESC). Only one per cent of respondents named ESC as an important safety feature. Yet, according to a study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, ESC reduced the risk of being involved in a single-vehicle fatal crash by 49 per cent.*

With more than half a million vehicles sold each year in B.C., car buyers have a wide selection of makes, models and age ranges to choose from. Although most vehicles are equipped with basic safety features, car buyers could likely get a lot more protection while still staying within their budget if they made safety a higher priority. Many key safety features are readily available even on used vehicles which make up the majority of vehicle purchases in B.C.

Although safety features are important, safe driving ultimately comes down to making smart decisions regardless of your vehicle. Even the best safety technology cannot override a vehicle's physical limits. If you push your vehicle's handling too far, you can still be involved in a serious crash.

ICBC recommends looking for the following key safety features:

  • Warning systems: While only identified as an important feature by two per cent of respondents, lane departure and forward crash systems provide audio and visual cues, which may include flashing lights and alarms, informing the driver of potential risks to help avoid a crash. These warning systems are a new developing technology that is mostly available on higher-end vehicles but is also now available as an after-market add-on.
  • Active head restraints: Although surprisingly only identified by one per cent of respondents as an important safety feature, a well-designed head restraint adjusted at the proper height reduces injuries by 24 to 44 per cent. They also significantly reduce the risk of soft-tissue neck and back injuries during a crash. Some vehicles even come with active head restraints - these automatically adjust to better protect the neck and head in a collision.
  • Anti-lock brakes: Driving on wet, icy or wintery roads is never easy but anti-lock brakes (ABS) can help give you more control by preventing the wheels from locking, allowing you to maintain steering ability and avoid skidding while braking.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC): ESC is mandatory in all 2012 vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2011 and is also available in many used vehicles manufactured since 2006. ESC helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle, especially on slippery roads or in an emergency situation, such as swerving or braking to avoid an obstacle. ESC works by selectively applying the vehicle's brakes and/or reduces the engine's power to keep it moving in the driver's intended direction, preventing loss of control. ESC works best at reducing the risk of a vehicle rollover, particularly with SUVs, some vans and pick-up trucks.
  • Three-point seatbelts: Seatbelts remain the most important safety device in a vehicle and have improved in performance over the years. Seatbelts actually vary in design and effectiveness - look for three-point or harness seatbelts in all positions. Height-adjustable belts ensure the seatbelt fits each passenger correctly. Pretensioners retract the belt to remove excess slack in a crash and reduce the severity of injuries.
  • New airbag technology: Airbags have also evolved and improved over the years, yet only one per cent of respondents identified them as an important safety feature. Advanced front airbags have sensors that actually measure the occupant's size, seat position and crash severity to determine the inflation levels for the driver and passenger - all of which increases safety and reduces injury. Curtain side airbags are also highly-recommended as they protect all passengers from side collisions which can often result in serious injuries or worse. They can also help reduce the chances of ejection during a rollover.

ICBC wants to help drivers make informed decisions about safety features and help them purchase the safest vehicle they can afford.

Visit icbc.com to learn more about safety features, and use the printable safer vehicle comparison checklist to easily compare vehicle safety features and ratings. If you are buying a used vehicle, remember to have a reputable mechanic perform a safety check to ensure key features such as brakes and tires are up to current standards and in good working condition.

Promoting safer vehicles, funding road improvements and educating drivers through awareness and advertising campaigns are all part of ICBC's road safety strategy to reduce and prevent crashes and injuries and help make B.C. roads safer.

*The study was based on all fatal crashes in the United States over a 10 year period. "Effects of Electronic Stability Control on Fatal Crash Statistics." Charles M. Farmer. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, May 2010.

Media contact:
Kathy Taylor
604-982-2480