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May is traditionally the busiest car buying season as consumers flock to dealerships to shop for the latest models. If you’re in the market for a new car or truck, shop with safety in mind.

Today’s new vehicles are the safest they’ve ever been, as a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes clear, while also delivering improvements in fuel economy and emissions.

As you might expect, new vehicles are safer than older ones. A recent NHTSA analysis looked at fatal crashes involving passenger cars, SUVs, pickups and vans and the data showed a greater proportion of deaths among passengers in fatal crashes occurred within older model year vehicles, compared to new model year vehicles.

For several years, new vehicles have offered safety features that use cameras and sensors to help drivers see the world around them or to warn them to act to avoid crashes. More recently, features have become available that can act for a driver to help prevent forward collisions, backing into objects or traffic, or drifting out of a marked lane.

Newer vehicles are not only safer but significantly cleaner and have improved fuel economy. With lower emissions and fuel use, today’s vehicles offer benefits and cost savings at the pump far greater than the older model that might be in your driveway.

There are many factors involved in a new vehicle purchase.

But if you’re in the market for a new car or truck, first visit NHTSA.gov/ratings to check the latest information about new car and truck safety from NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings Program, which provides consumers with information about the crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by federal law.

One star is the lowest rating; five stars is the highest. More stars equal safer cars.

The site also offers a pocket shopping guide to make today’s driver assistance technologies easy to understand and easy to bring with you to the car dealership. You can even access 5-Star Safety Ratings right on the showroom floor by downloading the SaferCar Mobile App, which is available for Apple and Android devices.

Of course, when it comes to being safe behind the wheel, there’s no substitute for buckling up, avoiding distractions, and driving unimpaired by alcohol or drugs.

But even the safest drivers can benefit from today’s driver assistance technologies.

There’s always an excitement that comes along with buying a new car. New styles and convenience features are often the major selling points. But, if you’re in the market, shop with safety foremost in your mind.

Use NHTSA’s 5-Star Ratings to guide your new vehicle purchase and you and your passengers will be riding safer than ever.

Heidi King is deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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