Safer cars are just one of the factors contributing to a downward trend in auto insurance premiums. Awards announced this week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirm a continuing trend of safer vehicle designs. A total of 34 vehicles earned the IIHS top safety pick award for 2008, close to triple the 13 models that qualified at the start of the 2007 model year. IIHS noted that 10 additional vehicles qualified during the year as manufacturers made changes and introduced new designs. Another 11 vehicles have been added to the list for 2008. The award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side and rear crashes based on ratings in the InstituteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s test. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC). IIHS research indicates that ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle crashes by 56 percent and fatal multiple-vehicle crashes by 32 percent. Many single-vehicle crashes involve rolling over, and ESC reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by 80 percent (SUVs) and 77 percent (cars). Check out I.I.I. facts & stats on highway safety.Ã‚
So Columbus Day brings some good news and not so good news for auto owners and their insurers. Vehicle thefts have declined for the third year in a row, according to the National Insurance Crime BureauÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (NICB) Hot Wheels study. The headline stats are 1,192,809 motor vehicles reported stolen in 2006, some 42,417 fewer than in 2005. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one vehicle every 26.4 seconds. Based on the FBIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s average valuation of $6,649 per stolen vehicle, this amounts to over $7.9 billion in losses just in vehicle value alone for 2006. But the other side of the coin is that only 59 percent of stolen vehicles were recovered last year — the lowest recovery rate in over a decade. More than 700,000 vehicles remain outstanding, which as the NICB points out, fuel a number of related insurance fraud and vehicle theft activities. Exports of stolen vehicles to foreign countries are part of the problem. In 2006, over 4,000 vehicles valued at nearly $42 million were returned to the U.S. from various countries. A trend to monitor.Ã‚ NICB’s advice to owners is to take a layered approach to theft prevention, and that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to be costly. The cheapest form of defense? Locking your car and taking your keys. Warning devices, immobilizing devices, and tracking devices are other effective tools. I.I.I.’s auto theft update has more details.