CHAPTER 3
CAR SAFETY TECHNOLOGY

Safety has become an increasingly important part in how modern vehicles are manufactured. In fact, safety ratings were first introduced back in 1983 and now have a huge swing in how customers view vehicles. Safety is now a top priority, along with features such as performance, fuel economy and looks.

To determine the overall safety of a vehicle, each model must go through the NCAP testing, which will be explained later in this guide. These EURO NCAP scores rate a vehicle on its safety features and how it would crumple in a possible collision.

Primary Car Safety Features

When choosing your next car, especially if it’s a new release, there’ll be a huge range of potential tech included as standard. This may bump up the price, but can you really put a cost on you and your family’s safety? With car manufacturers keen to outdo their rivals in safety, take a look at the growing list of ‘new’ safety measures included in vehicles.

1. Electronic stability control (ESC)

The Electronic Stability Control, otherwise simply abbreviated to ESC, is implemented into vehicles to prevent the driver losing control because of a sharp brake or sudden manoeuvre. In fact, reports suggest this system is able to reduce road accidents by as much as a third. ESC is also referred to under a number of other guises, depending on the manufacturer and these are: ASC, DSC, DTSC, ESP, ESP+, VDC, VSA and VSC.

2. Electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

This is another system that comes into effect when braking, ensuring that if you have to do an emergency stop, the vehicle will do so predictably and in a straight line.

3. Lane-keeping technology

Lane-keeping technology is great when travelling on motorways and dual carriageways, as it indicates to the driver if the vehicle begins to stray off line. In fact, the alert works by vibrating the driver’s seat – probably with the impression the driver may be tired at the wheel. Some manufacturers have an upgraded version of this technology and will automatically adjust the steering to compensate for lane drifting.

4. Speed-limiting devices

Cruise control has been around for drivers to make the most of for many years now, and they’re able to hold a set speed for however long is necessary. Of course, this is mostly implemented on a motorway so the vehicle can efficiently travel for a long period of time at the same speed. This tech helps prevent the driver breaking the speed limit, or simply helps them maintain a safe and comfortable speed.

5. Smart seatbelt reminder

Many motorists are very good at remembering to apply their seatbelt. However, there are still those who fail to belt up and without a seatbelt on, the chance of serious injury or death increase dramatically. If you fail to put your seatbelt on, the car will emit an alarm until the belt is clipped. Other vehicles will notify you if other passengers are travelling without a seatbelt too.

6. Blind spot warning systems

Modern vehicles have tech included that alerts you to vehicles close by on either side. The blind spot is the small area you can’t see in your wing mirror and as such, many motorists will switch lane on the motorway without being aware of a passing car. The blind spot warning system helps put an end to this risk.

7. Adaptive cruise control

This works in a similar way to normal cruise control, but actually assists the motorist by ensuring the gap between your vehicle and the one in front remains consistent. If the gap becomes too small, the brakes will automatically be applied.

8. Attention monitoring systems

Because of the dangers of being tried behind the wheel, this system looks to address this. The vehicle will be on the lookout for signs the driver is suffering from tiredness symptoms, then emitting an alarm or giving visual indicators.

9. Active headlight systems

Vehicles nowadays have automatic headlights, which adjust to the darkness you’re driving in. There are lots of different systems based on the manufacturer, such as the Intelligent Light System from Mercedes. With this lighting system the vehicle will automatically reduce the headlights when there are oncoming cars, thanks to sensors and cameras.

10. Automatic braking systems

This is pretty much what it says in the name – the vehicle will automatically brake for you if it senses an imminent collision. This is all done with cameras and radars around the vehicle and is included in modern BMWs, Audis, Volkswagens and Volvos among others.

11. Tyre-Pressure Monitoring Systems

The tyre pressure is very important but not something often checked by motorists. Instead, it’s only when there’s notable deflation that you may top up the air. These tyre-pressure monitoring systems keep constant checks on the pressure and alert you if they’re underinflated. Incorrectly pressurised tyres can result in poor handling and steering.

Secondary Safety Features

As well as the primary safety features outlined above, there is also a range of secondary safety features that are implemented to further protect motorists. Here you can find a number of the modern features included on the roads.

1. A stable body shell

It's the vehicle’s shell that will resist impact and protect all passengers. You’ve probably seen slow motion videos of a vehicle crashing into a safety barrier and the dummy being thrown around the car. This is where the Euro NCAP ratings come into play and will assess how safe the car is upon collision.

2. Pre-tensioned and load-limited seatbelts

Some modern vehicles are able to detect when a crash is imminent and as such, will apply more tension to the seatbelts as a result of pre-tensioned belts. Load-limited belts are slightly different and allow extra belt to stretch so as to avoid load injuries to the passenger.

3. Dual-stage airbags

Airbags are a staple feature in vehicles and can make a huge difference between minor or serious injuries. They’re triggered as sensors monitor the deceleration and in-crash circumstance of a vehicle. Dual-stage airbags are slightly different from the norm and dependent on the level of the incident, will respond in a varying manner. This is to prevent injuries form airbags in low speed collisions, instead providing a supportive and cushioning effect.

4. Good head restraints

Head restraints are one of the primary safety features to prevent whiplash – not a comfort standpoint, as is the misconception. As such, every time you’re driving or are the passenger in a vehicle, ensure the head restraints are adjusted accordingly. As a general guide, the top of the restraint should be level with the top of your head.

5. Isofix child seat mounts

Isofix systems are often included in vehicles to ensure the correct installation of a child seat. By being easier to fit, there’s a greater chance of a correct installation and therefore, the child will remain safe throughout your journey.

6. Pedestrian protection

In recent times there has been more emphasis placed on pedestrian protection, which is in essence how a pedestrian would be impacted should you hit them with a car up to 30mph. This protection comes in many forms and typically affects the vehicle’s ability to absorb impact energy.

There are even manufacturers offering a pop-up bonnet, which activates if the vehicle senses an impact is imminent. More space is created between the pedestrian and the harder materials that risk serious injury, providing a cushioning support. Be on the lookout for vehicles with a high EURO NCAP pedestrian safety score.

Chapter 4: Guide to NCAP Ratings