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New Statistics from the National Safety Council show last year to be the worst for traffic accidents since 2007. In just the first six months, there was a 14 percent increase in accidents over the previous year, resulting in 19,000 deaths. What is causing the upward trend? It’s likely the improved economy, which means more people are commuting to work every day, and low gas prices which encourage people to drive more.

What’s worrying, though, is this doesn’t completely account for the rise in accidents. Experts aren’t sure what is going on, but theorize that poor driving habits are leading the increase. Around 70 percent of drivers admit to using smartphones while driving, to text or browse social media; some are even taking selfies while driving. Using a phone while driving has been linked to 27 percent of all vehicle accidents. What’s clear is that roads are becoming more hazardous as mobile technology increases.

You probably can’t avoid driving with your busy lifestyle, so how can you and your family stay safe? The smartest decision you can make is to have a car with a high safety rating, which means if you are in an accident, you are less likely to be injured or worse. Newer model vehicles can even detect and avoid collisions. The IIHS can help you there, because it has improved its safety testing by adding criteria such as the presence of frontal collision warning systems. Most of the midsize SUVs and minivans make top marks on safety ratings, and have features such as emergency crash notification, blind spot warnings, cross traffic and land departure warnings.

Vehicles that won awards from the IIHS in 2015 include the midsize SUVs Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander. For midsize luxury SUVs, the best were the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and the Volvo XC60. The Toyota Sienna got the top award for minivans. For small cars, the winners were the Lexus CT 200h, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Subaru XV Crosstrek and the Toyota Prius. Before you go shopping for your next vehicle, do some research on these models and you’ll feel better about driving.

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