Got an e-mail from the woman who runs Motoring 2009 - Isabel Diamond. Why the only person on the team who really DOES have a face made for TV isn't on air, I'll never know.
Her God-daughter is looking for a new car, and her Dad asked Brad and me for advice.
She wants something affordable, yet safe.
Don't we all!
It isn't easy, because the most important safety features in cars today aren't available in cheaper cars.
I won't bore you with the specific suggestions I had for her, but here are some thoughts you should all keep in mind when car shopping.
First, the safety of a particular car is impossible to measure. Never mind the crash statistics; they measure ONE particular occurrence of ONE particular type of crash. While that may provide a broad idea of the structural integrity of the car, they really don't predict much if anything.
The most important safety features in modern cars are:
(1) Active front-seat headrests, which can reduce whiplash injuries by up to 70 percent. Whiplash is by far the biggest and most expensive car safety problem we have, and the most easily mitigated (with this type of headrest). The fact that neither Transport Canada nor NHTSA, the American equivalent, do not mandate them proves they don't have Clue One about what matters. I doubt any of the cars this young woman is looking at have them; I'm not certain but the Honda Civic might be the cheapest car with them.
(2) Electronic Stability Control, which helps prevent skids. This goes under a wide variety of names - DSC, VDC, etc. This link:
(if it doesn't show up as a link - I'm still learning this blogging software - cut and paste it into your browser...)
is a web site that describes what ESC does, how effective it is - and which cars have it. ESC will become mandated in 2012, but for now it is only standard on up-scale cars (although the Pontiac Vibe has it as standard) and optional on only a few smaller cheaper ones. You may have to go to something like a VW City Golf to get this - it's a $450 option. My soon-to-be son-in-law has a City Golf and he likes it a lot; I have owned a bunch of VWs and have been very happy with them.
If you cannot afford any of the vehicles that offer ESC, or even if you can, then the best safety investment you can make is not a car at all, but an advanced driver training program. Canada is fortunate to have many such programs available, and you really should take advantage of that.
What's more, the things you learn there will be with you for ever, no matter what car you're in - your own, any car you buy in the future, any car you borrow or rent.
Drive safe; drive right.