With a record 54 million vehicles facing recall — and nearly another month to go before the books are closed on 2014 — it’s no surprise American automakers and auto buyers alike have been focused on safety this year.
But despite all the lapses that have seen dozens of deaths from faulty airbags and flawed ignition switches, there’s another side to the story: cars are safer than ever. U.S. highway fatalities are now about 40 percent down from their 1970s peak, even though there are more cars on the road logging more mileage.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen vehicle safety reach this level before,” contends Raj Nair, global product development director for Ford Motor Co.
The latest vehicles are not only better-equipped to survive crashes but also to avoid them altogether. That’s led several automakers, including both Nissan and Volvo, to declare that they hope to see no deaths occur in the new vehicles they bring to market by the beginning of the next decade.