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Shopping for a New Car? Safety Features You Should Consider

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Shopping for a New Car? Safety Features You Should Consider

When shopping for a new car, safety matters! Not only is it important for you and your passengers to be well-protected from injury in an accident, you also want your vehicle to be as safe as possible for others on the road, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other drivers.

Once you start to research your next dream car, you’ll be bombarded by an array of safety-related acronyms. ABS, BSM, DRL, ESC — the mind boggles. Which of these actually prevent crashes and reduce injuries, and which ones are just for show? Here are some car safety features to look for.

Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

What is it?

This allows the car’s wheels to maintain some traction with the road surface

ABS is the safety system that prevents your brakes from locking. When an ABS system detects a sudden press on the brakes, it helps to apply and release the brakes repeatedly. This allows the car’s wheels to maintain some traction with the road surface. Some vehicles with ABS also feature a brake assist system that ensures the brake pedal is fully applied prior to the ABS kicking in.

Why is it important?

On slippery roads, it can be very difficult to stop your car quickly without getting into a skid. ABS helps to support your steering and stopping so the driver can make that split-second swerve safely.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

What is it?

Electronic Stability Control is a safety system that prevents drivers from skidding or losing control of their cars from over-steering. If the car begins to lose control, ESC uses sensors and a computerised system to automatically apply the brakes on individual wheels and put things back on track.
Different car manufacturers use different names for their ESC systems — Active Stability Control (ASC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Stability Assist (VSA) are all variations of the same technology.

Why is it important?

An ESC system goes further than an ABS system by automatically keeping the wheels moving, and the car facing forwards, greatly reducing the chance of a fatal collision. Researchers have confirmed that ESC systems lower the risk of single vehicle crashes by up to 50 per cent. In 2011, the Federal Government made ESC a required safety feature in all new passenger cars sold in Australia.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)

What is it?

The most recent innovation in computerised safety, AEB systems use cameras and sensors to detect the speed and distance of objects in the vehicle’s path. If a driver doesn’t respond to a potential collision, the system automatically applies the brakes to try and prevent a collision.

Why is it important?

A single moment of driver inattention can be fatal. Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler explains: “[AEB technology] could actually be a real game-changer in reducing crashes, particularly rear-end crashes where we see a lot of people distracted by mobile phones and other technology.” Research conducted by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) found that AEB could reduce the risk of crashes by 38 per cent.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

What is it?

A BSM system works by using a range of sensors that can automatically detect objects around the car. If there’s a vehicle in one of the car’s blind spots and the driver signals or starts to turn, the system alerts the driver with a flashing light or warning noise.

BSM systems can help to navigate lane changes safely and allow the driver to keep eyes on the road as much as possible.

Why is it important?

Every vehicle has blind spots — areas around the car that the driver can’t see when looking forwards or using the mirrors. These areas make lane changing a risky manoeuvre. BSM systems can help to navigate lane changes safely and allow the driver to keep eyes on the road as much as possible.

Seat Belt Features

What are they?

Modern seat belt features can help make seat belts more comfortable to wear, and offer better protection in a crash.

● Adjustable upper belts — A mechanism that lets passengers change the position of the shoulder strap, improving comfort.
● Pretensioners — These retract the seat belt and remove excess slack when there’s a sudden stop. Test this by pulling a seat belt out, and yanking on it to to feel the tug and hear the “click” of the pretensioner.
● Load limiters — These help to minimise belt-inflicted injury in a crash by releasing more of the belt in a controlled way when a large force is applied.
● Reminder systems — Alerts the driver that someone hasn’t fastened his or her seat belt.

Why are they important?

The humble seat belt is by far the most important safety device in cars and trucks, with Australia the first country to make them compulsory in new cars (all the way back in 1970). Yet while the road toll has improved significantly since then, around 150 people still die each year in accidents where seat belts were identified as a factor.

Active Head Restraints

What is they?

A newer type of headrest that automatically moves forwards in a crash, closing the gap between the occupant’s head and the headrest.

Why is it important?

When someone crashes into the back of a car, a passenger’s head flings forwards — then backwards — causing a neck injury called whiplash. Headrests aren’t just for comfort. They reduce the risk of whiplash by reducing the distance the head can move. An active head restraint helps to close this gap even more so the head and neck are better protected.

Side & Curtain Airbags

What are they?

Side and curtain airbags protect occupants when there’s a side-on collision. Side airbags inflate from the door panel, while curtain airbags drop down from the top of the side windows.

Why are they important?

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Front driver and passenger airbags come standard in most cars, protecting the occupants from front impact crashes. But according to Monash University researchers, side impact collisions are a particularly severe type of crash on Australian roads. Getting “T-boned” accounts for around one in four crashes in Victoria, and 40 percent of serious injury crashes. Newer airbag configurations can help keep passengers safer in these situations by offering better side impact protection.

Daytime Running Lights (DRLS)

DRLs help to improve your car’s visibility to other road users.

What are they?

Headlights that come on during the day to make your car more visible. They look quite different to standard headlights and use very little power.

Why are they important?

DRLs help to improve your car’s visibility to other road users. A study in Western Australia found that vehicles with DRLs were at least eight times safer than cars without.