blank 12/18/13 12:27PM Air Bags, Crumple Zones, Safety Features, Seat Belts

So What Goes Into Making a Car Safe?

Safety Features of cars

There are infinitely more makes and models of vehicle than when cars were first being made. Since there's more cars on the road, precautions are constantly being taken – and created – to keep drivers and passengers safe.  These safety features contribute to making automobile accidents less fatal than could be.

Crumple Zones

Crumple zones are areas of the car that are designed to fail. Seems strange, right? These areas are designed to absorb the energy (from another vehicle, a telephone pole, etc.). In this way, the energy is dissipated before it reaches the occupants of the vehicle, making for less injuries during car accidents.

Seat Belts

Nils Bohlin designed the 3-point safety belts, now mandatory in cars, for Volvo. In the interest of safety, Volvo made the new seat belt design patent open and gave the information to other car manufacturers without cost. Cars now have reminder lights in the dashboard as well as “chimes” to remind everyone to buckle up. 33 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory seat belt laws (GHSA).


Air Bags

Driver's side air bags became mandatory in 1995 for all passenger vehicles. The Porsche 944 Turbo became the first car to offer driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment in 1987. Airbags are now, on various makes and models, offered to protect knees, rear curtain air bags, center airbags, seat belt air bags and pedestrian air bags (in 2012, on the Volvo 4VO).

Head Restraints

Those head rests aren't just for comfort. There to make sure your head doesn't snap backwards, causing neck or spine injury, head restraints are required for all front seats but not on rear seats.

Antilock Break Systems (ABS)

ABS helps prevent wheels from locking when brakes are applied, especially during a “panic” breaking. Some vehicles with ABS also offer brake assist technology. Brake assist works by detecting “panic” breaking by the force and/or speed with which the driver presses -  or stomps on – the brake pedal. Brake assist can then engage ABS perhaps more quickly than a car without.

New Technology

As technology advances, hopefully so will auto safety. Emerging technologies are enabling cars to offer safety features such as auto braking, lane centering and back-up cameras. Auto braking, offered on my 2012 Jeep Cherokee Overland, automatically stops the vehicle by applying the brakes – without driver assistance – if I get to close to something in front of me. If, for example, I was distracted and didn't see the driver in front of me slam on his breaks, my Jeep will brake for me, avoiding an accident. Lane centering uses a dashboard-mounted system to “see” the road and and electronically-controlled steering wheel to keep the car centered in the lane. And back up cameras. What did we do before this gift? Now, when the car is put in reverse, we get a clear shot of what exactly is behind us along with a warning if we're too close to something.

As car manufacturers continue to include safety features introduced by emerging technologies, they are working ever-closer to a day when there are no car accidents, or at the very least, a very limited amount compared to today.


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