Safety should be a top priority consideration when looking for a new vehicle. More than 11 million crashes take place in America each year, and some 44,000 Americans are killed in automobile accidents each year. With this in mind, car manufacturers have been developing technology to help prevent accidents occurring, or significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in the event that you are involved in a collision.
It is important that your vehicle can provide you with maximum protection in an accident. How safe a car is can be determined by a number of contributing factors. When you are thinking about what car to buy, there will be various options that different cars may that will enhance your safety. Listed below are the different features of a vehicle that contribute to how safe it is:
Passive safetyPassive safety features are features that help occupants of a vehicle to stay alive and unharmed in the event of an accident. These include:
Seatbelts are required to be installed by law, but lap sash seatbelts have been proven to be the most effective in the event of a crash. Look for a vehicle that provides a lap sash belt even in the middle of the back seat.
Front driver and passenger airbags
These airbags can significantly reduce life threatening head injuries, when used in conjunction with seat belts. They are designed to prevent occupants from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel or windshield.
Head protecting side airbags
Side airbags protect an occupant's head during crashes into the side of the car and can also prevent injuries in rollover crashes. They are usually installed in the roof rails above the doors and deploy downwards, covering the side windows.
These are extensions of the car's seats that limit head movement during a rear-impact crash, reducing the probability of neck injury. In order to be effective they must be adjusted to a height that suits you to help minimize neck and whiplash injuries in a crash.
Side impact bars
Side impact bars protect the driver by spreading the weight of the impact in front of and behind the driver.
Fuel pump shut-off devices
Most fuel-injected engines have electric fuel pumps. It is critical that these pumps shut off in the event of a collision. If a fuel pump does not shut off following a collision, the pump will continue to circulate gasoline through the fuel system, providing a constant source of fuel for any resulting fire.
Active safety features help drivers to avoid accidents. These features may include:
Anti-lock braking system (ABS) (also Emergency Braking Assistance (EBA)
This system prevents brakes from locking and allows drivers to apply the brakes hard and fast with a minimal risk of losing steering control. ABS shortens stopping distances in most cases.
Turn signals and brake lights to make your car's movements visible to others on the road.
High performance tires
Tires are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the road and a good set will determine how your car responds to driving conditions.
Dynamic steering response
Dynamic steering response (DSR) corrects the rate of power steering system to adapt it to the cars driving conditions.
Traction control actuates brakes or reduces throttle to restore traction if driven wheels begin to spin.
Powerful windscreen wipers to increase your visibility.
Four wheel drive
Four wheel drive (AWD) with a center differential. This distributes power to all four wheels lessens the chances of wheel spin
Headlights which allow the driver to see obstacles ahead in the roadway while turning a corner.
Reverse backup sensors
These alert drivers to nearby objects in their path when reversing.
Elimination of blind spots
Electronic Stability Control (ESC, also known as ESP, ASC, DSC).
This system uses various sensors to intervene when the car senses a possible loss of control.
Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)
Alerts drivers when the vehicle is beginning to move out of its lane.
Variable assist power steering
Allows assistance to the motorist while parking, but reduces steering effort assistance at motorway speeds
Low center of gravity
Low center of gravity and other conventional features promoting good car handling and braking, and helping to avoid rollover.
Comfortable suspension and seating to avoid accidents from driver fatigue.
Visibility for the driver, mirrors, elimination of blind spots and possibly other awareness aids such as radar, wireless vehicle safety communications and night vision.
Four wheel steering gives, at the cost of mechanical complexity, quicker, more accurate maneuvers at high speed and/or decreased turning circle at low speed. It may also help stability.
Adaptive cruise control (ACC).
Technology that automatically adjusts the speed of your car according to distance of the vehicle ahead in the same lane. This slows down your car when it gets too close to the vehicle in front of it, and when the distance from the vehicle is judged to be safe, the car accelerates back to its last speed setting.
AWAKE and intelligent car features.
Pre-crash systems have been designed to reduce the damage caused in a collision by giving brake support and tightening seatbelts.
Cornering Brake Control (CBC)
Improves braking when taking corners by working in conjunction with anti-lock braking systems to counter over-steer when driving around corners. This results in optimum distribution in braking power.
Dynamic Brake Control (DBC)
A system that reinforces your applying the brakes to provide maximum braking in the shortest distance, as in an emergency stop. The criteria for full brake application are the speed with which you apply the brakes and the amount of brake pressure you exert.
The Weight of a vehicle can also be a contributing factor to an accident. All cars must meet US Department of Transportation standards for crash-worthiness. Larger and heavier cars, however, are usually safer in a collision than smaller ones. If a heavier vehicle collides head-on with a lighter one, the lighter will suffer substantially more damage. Large cars offer increased levels of comfort and roominess when compared to their smaller siblings, and today's fuel injected engines allow mid-sized, 6-cylinder automobiles to enjoy remarkably good gas mileage.
Four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are designed to be driven for work and off-road purposes. They don't handle nearly as well as passenger cars or mini vans. These vehicles have been found to be aggressive towards other road users, and when a collision occurs they can deal a disproportionate amount of damage to the object they collide with. Research shows that SUVs are four times more likely to roll over than passenger cars in high-speed maneuvers. In addition, SUV-to-car collisions are six times more likely to kill the occupants of the smaller vehicle when compared to a normal car-to-car collision. You may be safer inside an SUV, but you're at greater risk of killing others in the event of an accident.