Car safety is a must when choosing a vehicle. However, different car models offer different types of car safety features, so it can take time to determine which ones are the most important for you.
Car safety features fall into two categories: Active and Passive Safety Features. Active Safety Features offer drivers greater awareness of their surroundings and driving behaviour. Passive Driving Safety Features like seatbelts and airbags are staples of any car design.
These features have been proven to reduce severe injuries and save lives. Some safety systems have become standard car features, while others are attractive add-on details that might win over a prospective car owner.
Safety features often play a huge part when purchasing a car, especially used cars. Although in the case of pre-owned cars, it’s important to ensure they still work correctly, which can be done during professional pre-purchase car inspection services.
Check out these safety features to find out how they work and which features you should prioritise when shopping for your next car.
Why Are Car Safety Features Important?
Car safety features help prevent and reduce the severity of accidents on the road. These features do not exist for design purposes – they can save the lives of drivers, passengers, and other road users.
Car accidents can and do happen. Modern car safety features aim to reduce human error, which studies show to be the cause of road accidents. This is why life-saving safety features are crucial in choosing a vehicle.
The National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) suggests that passengers are much safer using vehicles with more safety features. Vehicles with a five-star safety rating are more likely to help a person survive a car accident than ones with a lower safety rating.
While car safety features like driver airbags and seatbelts are standard, many new safety features are still not. Therefore, a car’s safety features may not be the same as another. Drivers should consult their owner’s manual to understand and maximise the safety mechanisms of their vehicles.
A car will need to have adequate and functioning safety features to pass a Safety Certificate inspection in Queensland. However, many vehicles these days have additional features above and beyond the minimum requirements.
Active vs Passive Car Safety Features: What is the Difference?
The objective of active car safety features is to prevent accidents from taking place by increasing driver awareness and reducing human error. But when accidents do occur, passive safety features are activated to decrease the probability of death and serious injuries.
Both active and passive safety features are necessary to save lives and safeguard the well-being of drivers and passengers. One category is not superior to the other; they complement each other and work together to keep people safe.
Advanced technology has allowed the development of more sophisticated active car safety features year after year. Vehicle testing facilities usually test these features rigorously and give corresponding safety ratings to car models. Passive car safety features are part of the design and structure of the car, and they are the last line of protection for occupants. They lessen the physical damage to the passengers during crashes and accidents.
Braking Safety Features
Braking safely is crucial to safe driving as it protects vulnerable road users like motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians. That’s why brakes are one of the top systems inspected during a car safety certificate inspection.
Here are some of the important braking safety features:
- Anti-Lock Braking Systems – Anti-lock brake systems or ABS prevents rear wheels from being locked up during a hard brake. Locked-up wheels cause the vehicle to slide and prevent drivers from regaining control of the steering wheel. Anti-Lock Braking Systems use wheel sensors and a computer that prevents lock-up and optimises braking.
- Traction Control – Traction control is an electronic system that restricts wheel spin during vehicle acceleration. Limiting the wheel speed offers the best traction to the drive wheels. Traction Control stops the car from sliding, especially when it starts on icy or wet surfaces.
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring – Besides affecting fuel consumption and making handling more difficult, underinflated tyres may lead to blowouts because of their high chances of getting damaged. Drivers may not detect underinflation immediately because a tyre may lose air slowly. Tyre pressure monitors (TPMS) are helpful as they can monitor incorrect tyre pressure and inform drivers about any loss of air pressure.
- Electronic Stability Control – Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a system that helps maintain traction control and keeps the car on its intended path. ESC systems use sensors and a computer to monitor steering angle, sideways motion, rotation, and wheel speed. If a vehicle with ESC skids outside its intended path, the system brakes one or more wheels to put the car back on course.
- Brake Assistance – When drivers make an abrupt panic stop, they usually want to apply the maximum force to the brake. However, in some cases, drivers may need help to brake as hard as they need to. This is when a Brake Assistance System helps by stopping the vehicle in the fastest possible time.
- Automatic Emergency Braking – Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is one of the more sophisticated car safety systems that are products of modern technology. It automatically senses a potential collision. When the driver doesn’t react in time during a possible forward collision, the AEB system will initiate automatic braking.
Parking Safety Features
Here is a rundown of the best car safety features that assist in parking safely:
- Reverse Camera – The reverse camera feature offers a bumper-level view while the car moves backwards. It usually appears in the centre console screen or rear-view mirror and assists drivers in reversing or backing up safely. Sophisticated reverse camera systems can detect pedestrians concealed in the blind zone and provide a 360-degree view of the car.
- Parking Sensors – Parking Sensors alert drivers when road vehicles are close to objects while parking. This type of sensor uses either ultrasonic or electromagnetic technology. Parking Sensors are usually installed in the vehicle’s front, rear, and bumper areas.
- Rear Cross Traffic Alerts – Rear Cross Traffic Alerts assist drivers in backing out of spaces where there is approaching unviewable traffic. This safety feature monitors traffic from the vehicle’s right and left rear sides. Rear Cross Traffic Alerts can be visual or auditory warnings and activate when the car is in reverse mode.
- Back-up Warning Sensor – A Back-up Warning Sensor monitors the rear area of the car when it is in reverse mode. The sensor informs the driver that a car or other objects are directly behind the vehicle using a sound, vibration, or a combination of both.
Active Driving Safety Features
Active Car Safety Features increase the driver’s awareness and decrease the likelihood of human error. The most common and effective Active Driving Safety Features are:
- Sideview Camera – The Sideview Camera shows drivers a video view of the side mirrors and what is alongside the vehicles on both sides. This feature aims to improve the visibility of surrounding traffic and protects wheels, trim, side mirrors, and bumpers from damage at slow driving speeds.
- High-Speed Alert – High-Speed Alert is a simple car safety feature that displays the speed limit on the dashboard and sounds a warning if a person is driving past the prescribed speed limit.
- Adaptive Cruise Control – Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) enables the vehicle to drive consistently at an appropriate distance and speed from the surrounding vehicles. This safety sensory technology determines the car’s speed and proximity to other vehicles or objects on the road. Drivers can set a speed limit on the ACC, but this system can also reduce your speed automatically if it detects traffic or unsafe situations.
- Blindspot Warning – Aside from turning indicators, newer vehicles also come with Blindspot Warning systems. This safety system detects adjacent objects or vehicles in the driver’s blind spot. Blindspot Warning systems activate through a light on the door mirror and an audible alert sound.
- Obstacle Detection – Obstacle Detection is a car safety feature that uses ultrasonic sensors to warn drivers of nearby hidden or low-ground objects like bicycles or hydrants. This safety and warning mechanism is usually beneficial when backing up or manoeuvring the car slowly during parking.
- Pedestrian Detection – Pedestrian Detection uses sensor technology to identify human movements close to the vehicle and alert the driver. Some advanced Pedestrian Detection can employ brakes automatically if it senses a possible pedestrian collision.
- Lane Departure Warning – This warning system aims to prevent drivers from entering other lanes and avoid drains and gutters. A Lane Departure Warning mechanism tracks the car’s location within the painted lines on the road. It creates a beep, vibration, or visual alert if it senses that the vehicle veers into another line without a switched-on turn signal.
- Temperature Warning – The Temperature Warning feature alerts drivers when the temperature outside is below a safe level. When the temperature is below the freezing-point temperature, it becomes a strong indicator that there may be icy and slippery roads ahead. The Temperature Warning encourages drivers to be more cautious and to be on the lookout for slippery conditions.
Passive Driving Safety Features
Passive driving safety features are activated in cases of collisions and car accidents. Here are the best car safety features in the passive driving category:
- Crumple Zones – Crumple Zones act like a shell and are part of the car’s exterior design. A vehicle’s Crumple Zones include the front and rear end exteriors and are meant to crumple during a collision. This crumpling motion absorbs most of the crash energy, preventing it from transferring to the vehicle’s passengers.
- Seatbelts – Seatbelts are a standard for any vehicle’s safety system. Modern seat belts come with additional elements to protect car occupants. For example, a seatbelt pre-tensioner retracts the belt during a frontal collision and positions the person correctly. Another common element is the Force Limiter, which manages the force applied to the shoulder belt and the passenger’s chest during crashes.
- Airbags – Cars deploy airbags within milliseconds when sensors connected to their onboard computer detect a frontal collision. Airbags can deflate by themselves, but they can also cause injuries and deaths to children and passengers not using a seatbelt. Modern models feature adaptive or dual-stage front airbags that can depower or deactivate according to weight, presence and the position of the front seat occupants.
- Shatter-Resistant Glass – Shatter-Resistant Glass windscreens have two layers of laminated glass and a layer of plastic in between. When a collision occurs, normal windscreens break into tiny glass shards that can cause serious injuries. When shatter-resistant glass windscreens break, they break into larger fragments of glass that are less harmful to passengers and drivers.
- Seatbelt Reminders – As the name suggests, a Seatbelt Reminder is a safety feature that tells people to put on their seatbelts. Seatbelt reminders come in various designs. Some reminders use a symbol on the dashboard that lights up. Other models use a sound alarm that turns off only when a person puts their seatbelt on. The most sophisticated seat belt reminder systems can sense occupied seats and unfastened belts.
- Electronic Stability Control – Electronic Stability Control (ESC), also known as Electronic Stability Program (ESP), identifies when car tyres lose traction. When traction is lost, ESC applies an automatic brake on individual wheels to stop the vehicle from skidding or spinning out of control. ESC also helps the driver regain control of the steering. Most ESC systems can also cut the engine torque or power when necessary.
What Cars Have the Best Safety Features in 2022?
Some of the safest cars in 2022 include Volkswagen ID.4 and the Lexus NX. These car models have received the highest safety ratings. Manufacturers of these vehicles have invested in advanced safety features that integrate seamlessly with automobile designs.
How Can I Tell if a Used Car is Safe?
A vehicle Safety Certificate or ‘roadworthy’ is one indication of whether a used car is safe. However, it’s not unheard of for sellers to get a dodgy roadworthy certificate, so it’s crucial to do due diligence. Ideally, you should also have your own pre-purchase inspection performed by a mechanic.
What Are the Safest Used Cars?
Although older models, cars like the Mazda 6, Volvo S60, and Subaru Crosstrek have dependable engines and superior active and passive driving safety features. These vehicles are popular among the general public and have high safety ratings from reputable agencies. If you’re looking to purchase a used car safely, you should always take it for a pre-purchase inspection.
Does Automatic Braking Prevent Accidents?
Automatic braking (AEB), or automatic emergency braking, can reduce the impact of rear-end collisions at low speeds. However, AEB technology cannot prevent all crashes, especially T-bone collisions during left turns and interactions. Some AEB systems do not work at speeds higher than 65 kilometres per hour.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Shift Automotive does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information, and specifics will vary according to your vehicle’s manufacturer and model. This article is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified automotive service technician.