Automotive safety involves what are known as active and passive safety features. Active safety involves those features that help to prevent collisions and passive safety to those that protect a car’s occupants during a collision. These can sometimes conflict with each other. Big, heavy cars, for example, are best suited for withstanding impact, while smaller, lighter cars are better at avoiding them.
Active Safety Technology
Active safety features address vehicles’ mirrors, reflectors, headlamps, lights, signals, suspension, steering, and brakes. These include automatic braking systems, infrared headlamps, adaptive headlamps, backup sensors and cameras, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, tire-pressure monitoring systems, traction restoration systems, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution systems, and emergency brake assistance.
Passive Safety Technology
Passive safety features primarily involve seatbelts, airbags, and vehicles’ physical structure. These are the result of extensive research involving crashes of actual vehicles occupied by crash-test dummies. Seatbelts and airbags are now standard equipment on all cars, although some cars have more airbags than others. Other features include laminated windscreens, tempered glass in side and rear windows, crumple zones that absorb and divert impact away from vehicles’ occupants, reinforced safety cells around passenger compartments, anti-whiplash seat and head restraint design, side-impact protection beams, collapsible steering columns, padded dashboards and other interior surfaces, and cargo barriers in such vehicles as vans, station wagons, and SUVs.
The World’s Safest Cars
A car with all these features would obviously be an expensive one, but safety experts have developed systems for rating which are the most important. The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) assesses car safety for the UK, several other European governments, and the EU by conducting tests on cars with safety features that are standard on all European sales, rating them on a scale of from one to five stars. In order to receive a favourable rating, vehicles must have specified systems to address adult and child occupant protection, pedestrian protection, and active safety technologies. Cars with Euro NCAP five-star ratings include the BMW 3 Series, Hyundai i30, Mazda CX-5, Peugeot 208, Audi Q3, Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Focus, Mercedes Benz B Class, and Volvo V60.
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