Shopping for a Safe Car: Essential Safety Features to Consider

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Shopping for a Safe Car

If you want to buy a new vehicle, you probably have safety on your mind. All new cars need to achieve federal standards for safety; however, all vehicles have different levels of safety. Variations in safety features make some vehicles much safer than the others. Automakers often provide more safety features than the minimum governmental requirements.

Consider these safety features when you’re thinking about buying a car:

  1. Crashworthiness Certain features reduce your risk of serious injury or death in a crash. You can find crashworthiness ratings with this United States Department of Transportation shopping helper.

  2. Structural design Vehicles with proper structural designs have strong occupant compartments (safety cages). Their rear and front ends will bend and buckle to absorb powerful impact forces. This “crush zone” technology directs dangerous forces away from passengers in the safety cage; however, if the cage collapses, passengers’ chances of injury rapidly increase.

  3. Vehicle weight and size According to physics, heavier and larger cars outperform smaller and lighter ones. People in compact cars are twice as likely to die in crashes as people in large cars. When small and large vehicles collide, heavier vehicles push lighter vehicles backward; this decreases the forces experienced by people in the heavier car and increases those endured by people in the lighter car.

  4. Restraint systems Airbags, head restraints, and belts, together with your vehicle’s structure protect you and your family in crashes. Your lap and shoulder belts will hold you safely in place; this reduces the chances you’ll hit a hard object or be thrown from the vehicle. If you don’t wear your seatbelt, you’ll keep moving forward when the car stops until an object stops you; this could be a hard surface on the interior of your vehicle – causing serious injuries.

    • Shoulder belts in cars have inertia reels which allow for your upper body to move around when driving; however, they lock when you brake hard or crash into something. These reels store belt webbing; during frontal crashes, slack in this webbing permits your upper body to fall forward. You could hit your steering wheel, windshield, or dashboard. Some automakers address this issue by adding belt crash tension devices that activate at the beginning of a crash and reel in any belt slack to prevent forward body movement.

    • shoulder belts, lap belts, and airbags work very well together. However, deployed airbags can cause injuries and death. You face serious injury risk if you’re above or quite close to your airbag when a crash triggers it to inflate. Be sure to buy a car which lets you reach your brake and gas pedals comfortably; you shouldn’t sit too near to your steering wheel. Your car may offer a telescope-style steering column which offers helpful adjustments.

    • Your side airbags should protect the upper abdomens of you and your passengers. These can also help keep your heads from banging into any intruding interior structures.

    • All new cars need head restraints for people in the front seats; these keep your heads from snapping back, a common cause of neck injury in rear-end crashes. However, not all head restraints are the same; some can be adjusted, others can’t. These devices can vary in their heights, and in how far back they are from passengers’ heads. To avoid neck injuries, your head restraints should be right behind you and very close to your head. Make sure your new car has these types of restraints. If these devices can be adjusted, ensure they are locked firmly in place. Some head restraints don’t lock; these can be pushed downward in crashes.

  5. Anti-lock brakes When you press hard on conventional brakes, your car’s wheels could lock up; this causes skidding and poor steering. If you have the anti-lock style of brakes, they will automatically turn on and off many times per second; this prevents lockup and lets you keep better control of your car. If you learned to brake softly on wet roads or to “pump” your standard brakes in skids, unlearn these particular habits; you should put hard and continuous pressure on your brake pedal to activate your anti-lock system. Though your anti-lock brakes can help you stay in control of your steering, they may not help you come to a stop any faster.

  6. Daytime running lights Your ignition switch activates your daytime running lights. These usually consist of high-beam headlights with a reduced intensity; they could also be low-beam lights with full or limited power. These lights increase the visual contrast between vehicles and their backgrounds; this makes vehicles easier to see, especially to oncoming drivers. This increased visibility helps prevent accidents during the day.

  7. On-road experience Many design characteristics influence your risk of injury when driving. For example, small sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks may roll over in crashes. “High performance” vehicles usually have high death rates; drivers of these cars can be tempted drive too fast. Putting young drivers in high-performance cars is especially dangerous.

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