What do you look for when you go car shopping; the model, styling, or color? Maybe it’s the options such as blue tooth, navigation system, heated seats, and moon roof. Or will you decide based on how you’re going to use it; shuttle kids, haul tools to a job site, go camping, or just to and from work? I’d like to suggest you add safety equipment to your evaluation criteria too!
January closed with an article posted by Consumer Reports listing 10 types of safety equipment to look for in your new car. It’s a great list and needs to be shared; just in case you missed it.
Insurance Institute Crash Test Ratings: I’ve spoken before on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash test ratings. The IIHS test, called the frontal offset crash test, imitates hitting a car that’s just crossed over the center line. The Institute runs a car into a deformable barrier at 40 miles per hour and covers only 40% of the vehicles front end. The deformable barrier simulates a car to car, driver’s side to driver’s side collision that severely stresses a car’s structural integrity and ability to protect the driver.
The IIHS grades how vehicles perform in their crash tests with a grade of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, or Poor. Before you buy any car, take a look at how it performed in all crash tests including frontal offset, small overlap, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests.
Government Crash Test Ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also conducts its own set of crash tests focusing on full frontal and side impact. Each vehicle is graded with 1 to 5 stars; the more stars the better the driver and passengers are protected.
I recommend you compare results using both web sites and their crash results, after all most people experience an accident on average of once every 7 years.
Electronic Stability Control: The NHTSA required electronic stability control (ESC) as standard on all vehicles starting with the 2012 models. ESC systems are designed to keep a vehicle under control and on its intended path during cornering while preventing skidding or sliding. This is accomplished by the system selectively applying brakes to one or more wheels and cutting engine power to help the vehicle on course. These systems can help prevent a SUV from rolling over.
Rollover Resistance: Taller vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks are 2 to 3 times more likely to rollover than passenger cars according to the IIHS. This is due to their higher center of gravity. Rollover resistant systems don’t prevent a SUV or truck from rolling over, but they do help reduce the likelihood of it doing so.
Antilock Brake System: Antilock brake systems (ABS) are available as standard or optional equipment on almost all vehicles now. They prevent the brakes from locking up during a hard stop which prevents the driver from losing control of the vehicle. In addition, they provide shorter stops and keep the car straight during a hard or panicked stop.
Accident Avoidance Systems: Avoiding an accident is just as important as its crash worthiness. Accident avoidance begin with how a car brakes, handles in an emergency situation, accelerates, and includes driver visibility, position, and seat comfort which minimizes driver fatigue.
However new systems take accident avoidance to a whole new level with the advent of advanced car safety systems. These systems provide warnings to the driver when a vehicle is in the driver’s blind spot, notice a slow moving or stopped car ahead, warn the driver when leaving their lane, and much more.
Air Bags: All new cars come equipped with dual front airbags and many come with side curtain air bag systems to protect occupants in a side impact collision. There are differences though between these systems. The smart air bag systems measure a number of variables and deploy the airbags differently based on a person’s weight, etc.
Seatbelt Systems: Three point belts provide the most protection and most vehicles come with them even in the middle back seat. If there’s only a lap belt in the center back seat – keep looking!
Seatbelts are even getting smarter with pre-tensioner and force limiter systems. Pre-tensioner automatically tighten during a frontal impact collision and force limiter systems to relax the seat belt following the initial impact preventing chest and internal injuries caused by the seat belt.
Head Restraints: Head restraints protect occupants from whiplash injuries to the neck caused by being rear ended. A properly positioned head restraint is tall enough to cushion the head above the top of the spine. While most restraints adjust for height, they really need to lock in place to prevent being forced down in a rear impact collision. This capability should be present on front and back seats head restraints, although Consumer Reports noted many back seat restraints were too low to fully protect passengers.
Child Safety: All new vehicles come equipped with a LATCH or Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children system making attachment of a child safety seat easier and more secure. While this system is present in any vehicle you’ll evaluate, they don’t work equally well. Before buying a new car, try your child’s seat out in the car to see how well it works.
Child safety seats do save children’s lives. In order to fully protect your child or grandchild, they should use a safety seat until they are big enough to use the vehicle’s regular seat belt.
Power Window Switches: There have been instances where a child was injured or killed by accidentally triggering a power window when leaning out of an open window. This can happen when the window switch is located on the door’s armrest and utilizes a horizontal rocker or toggle switch. The safest switches are lever type switches mounted flush with the surrounding trim.
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