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How safe are you while driving your car?

May, 2012

Car safety features explained – which are the most important to look out for when buying a new car?

Car safety features have come a long way over the course of history, with some major milestones along the way – Hydraulic brakes were invented in 1919, safety features became standard in the 1960s, and this year, Nevada became the first place in the world to issue license plates to self-driving cars.

Car safety technology continues to evolve in leaps and bounds. Ford‘s Evos concept car, although still about five years away, would essentially be a cloud-computing device on four wheels, will be able to monitor the drivers’ vital signs, such as indications of drowsiness, and help to stop accidents cause by driver fatigue.

However, until all of this super high-tech gadgetry becomes the norm, there are some safety features that are extremely important to look out for when you’re on the search for a new or second hand car.

Antilock Brake System (ABS)

The most common safety feature in today’s cars, ABS brake systems use sensors in each wheel to tell how fast each wheel is turning in relation to the other three when the brakes are suddenly applied. When one wheel is turning slower or not at all, the computer changes the brake pressure in that one skidding wheel, enabling it to continue to roll and steer, rather than locking up and causing loss of control. While this is an extremely important safety feature under most conditions, care must still be taken as ABS brakes can actually make stopping distances longer on snow, ice, or gravel.

Traction Control

Working in conjunction with ABS, traction control works to stabilise the car when braking suddenly. One style of traction control cuts fuel to the engine when it senses a wheel slipping in order to reduce power to the spinning wheels, and stop the loss of grip of the tyres on the road.

Airbags

Airbags are another fairly standard safety feature, but modern advances in technology are making them better and better every year. In newer car models, airbags can adapt to passenger load and accident type, and in some cases can even be activated numerous times in the event of multi-impact accidents.

Speak to your car dealer about the specifications of airbags in any potential car that you’re looking at buying, and look for something called “Better Airbag” technology (asking whether a car has “Better Airbags” should be a fairly easy thing to remember!)

Weight

The weight and size of a car are two “passive” safety features which should also be taken into consideration when car shopping. Crash data shows that larger, heavier vehicles are generally considered to offer more passenger protection than lighter vehicles. However, new technologies and manufacturing methods are allowing car manufacturers to build cars made out of sturdy yet light material, while still offering almost the same amount of protection as heavier cars.

 

Of course, these are just a few car safety features to look out for when you’re car shopping. Remember to always check the ANCAP safety rating of any potential vehicle you’re looking at buying

What are your top tips for choosing the best safety features in a car?

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