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Modern cars now contain many features to help prevent accidents and reduce injuries, so it’s a good idea to be aware of which features are the most important.
Car safety features fall into two main categories known as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ safety:
Primary safety features are designed to help you avoid a crash and include equipment such as brakes and lights as well as systems such as ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and lane keeping support.
Secondary safety features react once you’ve had an accident and are designed to reduce injuries to you and your passengers such as seat belts, head restraints and airbags.
One of the best ways you can find out about a car’s safety features and how they work is to take the car for a test drive with an experienced
sales representative. In this way, you’ll be able to ask them to point out all of the features the car contains, and they may even be able to demonstrate some of the primary safety gadgets whilst you’re on the road.
If you’re buying off a private seller and you take the car for a test drive yourself, you need to check the basic mechanics of the vehicle are in full working order. Check the brakes, steering, lights and tyres initially, then climb into the car and test the following:
A vehicle check will provide you with added peace of mind about a vehicle’s past. Trusted Dealers check all vehicles before they arrive on the forecourt following their 10 Points of Difference promise. The checks include mileage checks, to make sure the vehicle hasn’t been clocked, checks to ensure the vehicle has neither been lost nor stolen, has any outstanding finance to pay or has been involved in a serious accident.
There are a number of electronic safety systems on newer cars that are usually all abbreviated which can cause some confusion to buyers. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common safety systems you should find on modern cars and their function:
Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) – help you to keep control of the car in an emergency and have been a standard feature on all new cars since 2004. ABS helps you maintain steering control under emergency braking.
Electronic Brake Assist – senses how firmly you brake and if appropriate keeps applying the brake to help the ABS work.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – can detect differences between the car’s course and your intended course. It can sense when you are about to lose control and can automatically apply braking to individual wheels to help you keep control.
Seatbelts have been around for many years but their design has continued to evolve, so that modern seatbelts can now offer features such as pre-tensioners and grabbers that reduce the slack in the seatbelt in the event of a crash and load limiters that stop the seatbelt from pulling too hard on your chest. Most centre rear seats now have a diagonal seatbelt as opposed to the static lap belt that was fitted for many years.
Airbags serve as supplementary restraints providing additional protection if you are already wearing a seatbelt. A modern car will often contain as many as six airbags – three each for the driver and front-seat passenger. Airbags on the dashboard and steering wheel protect the head and chest in a front collision, whilst an airbag in the door or the side of the seat protects the chest, tummy and pelvis in a side collision. Airbags mounted in the edge of the roof over the doors are known as and are a further addition to newer cars, protecting the head in a side impact or roll-over incident. In addition, the latest airbags that have recently entered the market are knee protecting airbags and bags for rear seat passengers.
Crash tests are the only reliable way of testing out how well a car fares in the event of a collision. They also demonstrate how effectively the car body is able to absorb crash energy without the passenger compartment being crushed. The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) has been crash testing new cars since 1997 and you can find all of the ratings on their website. Their tests include the following:
Since 2009, Euro NCAP now award a single, overall safety rating up to a maximum of five stars which is made up of scores in four areas: adult occupant, pedestrian protection and a new area entitled ‘safety assist’ which takes account of driver assistance and active safety systems.