Safety features in cars and what they’re for

Safety features in cars and what they’re for

Your car comes with a whole host of incredible safety features, some of which you probably don’t even know are there. The safety of modern cars surpasses all of its predecessors. Safety is a constant area of focus for manufacturers eager to make vehicles safer on the road. This article will detail some of the main safety features you can find in your car, what it’s designed to do and how it works.

Take a look at the safest cars currently on the road in the UK.


The debate around seatbelts is ongoing. The majority of arguments are in favour of seatbelts being a life-saving fixture in any car. Some argue that they cause more injuries than they prevent. Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

Seatbelts saving lives

The concept behind a seatbelt is to prevent you from being thrown forward during an impact in a vehicle. The front-seat passenger and the driver are at risk of being catapulted through the windscreen of the car with some velocity if there is an impact and they are not wearing a seatbelt. The rear passengers would be thrown forward during an impact into the seats in front causing injury to themselves and the front seat passengers. The seatbelt works to prevent this by securing you to the chair upon impact. Statistics show that you are twice as likely to die in a car crash if you are not wearing a seatbelt.

Since 1966 it has been the law that all cars are manufactured with seatbelts. In 1983 it became a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt and if you are caught by officials not abiding by this law you can receive an on the spot fine of £100.

RAC analysis of 30 years of Department for Transport road casualty statistics shows that at the end of that year 2,245* people lost their lives in vehicles whilst 28,331 were seriously injured. In 2012, the latest figures available, fatalities had fallen to 888 – a 60% reduction of 1,357 since 1983 – and serious injuries are down to 9,258 – a 67% reduction of 19,073.

Seatbelts causing injury

The arguments against seatbelts largely relate to the assumption that people’s behaviour changes if they perceive there to be less risk. Research conducted by John Adams, risk expert and emeritus professor of geography at University College London studied road accidents from 18 countries. What he found was a significant increase in the number of road traffic accidents in Countries where seatbelts were mandatory and also an increase in accidents since the laws came into place. This research doesn’t take into account things like the increase in drivers for example. So it is not considered to be conclusive evidence.

There is also a concern that seatbelts would trap you in a dangerous scenario. For example, if your car caught fire as a result of a crash people worry that the seatbelt would keep them trapped in the car. This could happen. However, only 1% of road traffic accidents resulted in a fire or the car being submerged in water.


n airbag is designed to inflate upon impact to cushion the driver and passenger. It is used to prevent you from being knocked out should your head hit the dashboard during a crash. How airbags work is fascinating. They need to inflate at a speed 200mph faster than a car crash. The laws of physics state that anything that moves has mass and velocity. Mass and velocity create kinetic energy, so the heavier the car and the faster your speed the more kinetic energy you create. If you suddenly stop the kinetic energy means you will continue to move forward. Seatbelts obviously restrain your body from velocity during an impact. But your head is not restrained at all.  So even if your body is fastened tight, the same basic law of physics says your head will keep on going and smash into the steering wheel or the glass windshield (windscreen). That’s where airbags come in.

If a car is involved in an impact it loses speed quickly. Cars are fitted with an accelerometer which detects the change in speed. This triggers an airbag if the deceleration is large enough. A heated element is then used to flood a nylon bag with a harmless gas to explode through the dashboard or steering wheel and protect passengers.

Did you know that airbags are coated with a talc-like substance to aid them in unwrapping smoothly during an impact?

Anti-lock brakes (ABS)

If you’ve been driving for a number of years you will have likely experienced the feeling of your car wheels locking up during a hard braking period. The front tyres would slide and it would be impossible to steer which can be treacherous on slippery surfaces. ABS prevents locking tyres by placing a sensor at each wheel. The on-board computer system maximises braking for each wheel. ABS also allows the driver to control steering while braking making it easier to avoid obstacles in the road.

Blindspot warning

Blindspot warning or BSW for short is a system which uses cameras or radars to warn of anything coming into your blind spot. This is particularly useful for changing lanes and parking. The system will illuminate a light on the dashboard or make a sound to warn of a potential hazard. Advanced systems can even take control of your steering to move the vehicle away from danger.

Want to know more about blindspots, you can get more information with this article.

Parking assist systems

These are sensors embedded in the front, rear, or both bumpers that alert you during the process of parking. They will pick up anything that could obstruct you from poles, walls, shrubbery or even a person or animal that you’re getting close to.

Automatic high beams

This function automatically switches from low to high beam and back again, for improved nighttime visibility as conditions warrant. This is safe for you and other road users. It prevents you from blinding other road users with your high beams as they approach you.

Adaptive cruise control

Using radars and cameras the adaptive cruise control function ensures you keep a constant safe distance from the car ahead. The two-second rule is a popular marking of a safe driving distance. This can be measured by choosing a marker on the road as the car in front of you passes. If it takes two seconds for you to pass the same marker you are at a safe driving distance. Adaptive cruise control will be able to see when traffic slows and respond accordingly. The technology can even bring the car to a complete stop. Then, when the obstruction clears and the car in front is a safe distance away. The adaptive cruise control will return you back to a safe speed when the obstruction clears.

With such a wide variety of safety features in cars, the risk involved in being in an accident is drastically limited. The newer the car, the better safety technology features.

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