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5 Car Safety Features to Look Out For

Whether you’re shopping for a used or new car, it’s important to spend time making sure it’s safe. From head restraints to antilock brake systems, here are nine car safety features you need to pay strict attention to.

Seat Belts

In the event of a crash, seat belts are designed to keep you inside the vehicle. They also reduce the risk that you will collide with the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. New seat belt designshave the following additional features that improve seat belt performance:

  • Adjustable upper belts. An adjustable upper belt lets you change the position of the shoulder strap to accommodate a person’s size. This feature may encourage passengers to wear their belts, since it increases shoulder belt comfort.
  • Seat belt pretensioner. Pretensioners retract the seat belt to remove excess slack, almost instantly, in a crash. However, you still need to adjust your seat belt so that it fits as snugly as possible, since pretensioners are not powerful enough to pull you back into your seat in the event of an impact.
  • Energy management features. Energy management features allow seat belts to “give” or yield during a severe crash to prevent forces on the shoulder belt from concentrating too much energy on your chest. These features include “load limiters” built into the shoulder belt retractor and/or “tear stitching” in the webbing that causes the seat belt to extend gradually.
  • Rear center seat lap/shoulder belts. Some manufacturers provide a rear centre lap/shoulder belt. This added feature is especially beneficial to older children and children in booster seats who are often seated in the rear centre position.

Air Bags

Depending on the speed at impact and the stiffness of the object struck, front air bags inflate to prevent occupants from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel, and windshield. Side air bags reduce the risk that occupants will hit the door or objects that crash through it.

Although air bags provide life-saving benefits for the vast majority of people, there are situations in which air bag deployment can have adverse effects, such as when occupants are unbelted. Front air bags do not eliminate the need for seat belts and are not designed to offer protection in rollovers, rear, or side impacts. In fact, maximum air bag effectiveness depends upon seat belts, which help keep you in place should a collision occur. You can significantly reduce the risk of injury from an air bag by buckling your seat belt and keeping about 10 inches or more between your breastbone and the air bag.

Children can be killed or seriously injured by an air bag, so you should always put children age 12 and under in the rear seat. You should never use a rear-facing child seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a front passenger air bag unless the air bag is off.

Head Injury Protection

Head injury protection consists of foam or other energy absorbing material under the trim of the vehicle interior and is likely to be invisible to vehicle occupants. Some vehicles have head air bags. While all head air bags are designed to deploy in side impacts, some are also designed to deploy during rollovers. Both types of air bags are designed to help protect occupants from injuries caused when their head strikes the upper interior of a vehicle.

Head Restraints

Head restraints are extensions of the vehicle’s seats that limit head movement during a rear-impact crash, thus, reducing the probability of neck injury. Head restraints meeting specific size and strength requirements are required in front seats, but not in rear seats. While you must adjust most head restraints manually, some adjust automatically with changes in seat position or dynamically in a crash. In general, dynamic head restraints provide the best protection.

Antilock Brake System

An antilock brake system (ABS) prevents a vehicle’s wheels from locking during “panic” braking, which allows the driver to maintain greater steering control—a key factor in avoiding a collision. However, an ABS does not guarantee your ability to avoid a crash. Furthermore, you still may lose control when driving at excessive speeds or when using extreme steering maneuvers. Learning to use the ABS correctly will provide you with the greatest benefit from the system.

All passenger cars equipped with ABS have four-wheel ABS. Sport utility vehicles, trucks, and vans equipped with ABS can have either four-wheel or two-wheel ABS. Four-wheel ABS monitor and control all the wheels of the vehicle, while two-wheel ABS only monitor and control the rear wheels of a vehicle.