When you’re in the market for a new vehicle, there are many factors you need to consider. Is it the right size for your needs? Is the model known for its dependability? Does it come with all the latest bells and whistles? Before you even consider any of the above, make sure that the vehicle makes the mark on safety.

Why Safety Is So Important

Americans are hitting the roads more than ever before, driving nearly twice as many miles when compared to 1980 according to FaceTheFactsUSA.org, a project of George Washington University. With so much time spent driving, it’s easy to understand why safety should be the top priority for every driver out there. However, according to TheWeeklyDriver.com, safety ranked seventh out of ten among the reasons why consumers choose a vehicle — below dependability, technology, and even exterior styling.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are the two most recognized organizations providing safety scores, and both test different aspects of vehicle safety, so it’s smart to choose a vehicle that ranks high for both.

The IIHS evaluates a vehicle’s crashworthiness by conducting five tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints & seats. The Institute conducts low- and moderate-speed track tests of vehicles with automatic braking systems to find front crash test ratings. These front crash tests are very important to vehicle safety, as frontal crashes are most common in vehicle fatalities. Choosing a vehicle with a higher safety rating could, in fact, save your life.

Now that safety is at the top of your must-have list, let’s take a look at some of the best safety features available on today’s vehicles.

Crash Avoidance Technology

It’s all right there in the name: avoiding crashes is something we can all get behind. From automatic emergency braking to blind spot detection and other sensors in place to prevent crashes, new technology has heightened everyday safety on the road.

The IIHS reports that there have been fewer insurance claims filed under property damage liability coverage for vehicles equipped with forward collision warning and automatic braking than those without it. Adaptive headlights — or headlights that use electronic sensors to adjust as needed to aid the driver’s visibility — have also shown to decrease these insurance claims.

Lane Change Assist

Imagine having a little helper on your shoulder that can calculate the rate of speed of the driver in the next lane, warning you when it’s not such a good idea to move into that lane. Lane change assist does just that. It uses your side mirror to calculate the speed at which the cars in the lane next to yours are driving, and then when you flip on your turn signal, it will warn you if it’s not the safest option. According to NYDailyNews.com, this feature is becoming more prominent in 2015.

Where does safety rank on your list of must-haves when buying a new vehicle? Let us know in the comments below!