Focusing on features versus safety.
New and used car buyers will often have a long list of requirements that their next car should fulfill. Often these requirements relate to looks, features and creature comforts, however, some of the most important features are over-looked or taken for granted because people aren’t inclined to think of worst-case scenarios. Here are some key safety features you should consider as “must-haves” in your next vehicle.
Passive versus Active Safety Systems.
Vehicle manufacturers often break safety systems down into two categories: active and passive safety. Active safety systems are viewed as a vehicle’s primary safety system and focus on avoidance or reduction of the likelihood of collisions, whereas passive safety systems exist to protect passengers in the event of a collision.
Key Active Safety Systems.
ABS, or the Anti-lock Braking System, is a relatively common safety feature in modern vehicles. Despite this, it's always good to ensure your next car is fitted with this feature. ABS assists the driver to have easier control of the vehicle in emergency braking situations by reducing and/or preventing wheel lock up.
Often, when a driver must stop their car suddenly or unexpectedly to avoid a collision, they will press hard on the brake pedal in a panicked attempt to prevent the collision. In this situation, the brakes can lock the wheels, and the wheels will lose traction with the road that results in the vehicle skidding and simply sliding – straight into the obstacle. Because the tyres have no grip on the road, the driver will not be able to steer the car to avoid the obstacle.
ABS hydraulically pulses the brakes by applying and releasing pressure at the brake pads in rapid succession to keep static friction in play and in most situations stops the car more quickly than it would with locked wheels. This allows the driver to steer while braking because the wheels maintain friction with the road and are able to respond when the driver turns the wheel.
EBD, or Electronic brake-force distribution, is an active vehicle safety system designed to make braking as efficient as possible. EBD makes the amount of brake force applied to a wheel proportional to that specific wheel’s load at the time. It reduces the dangers of wheel lock up by automatically balancing the brake force applied to each wheel according to the overall weight distribution of the vehicle, among other factors.
EBD often works in conjunction with ABS by monitoring each wheel’s responsiveness to the brake, and tailors and corrects the amount of brake-force applied to each wheel by redistributing the brake-force individually to obtain optimal braking efficiency – while retaining the maximum amount of braking power possible, and reducing the risk of fishtailing or spinning out of control.
ESC/ESP/DSC or Electronic Stability Control/Electronic Stability
Program/Dynamic Stability Control are systems that use multiple sensors to measure wheel speed, steering angle, yaw rate, among others, and detects if a vehicle is not following its intended course. It then course corrects the vehicle within milliseconds by independently controlling and regulating the brake pressure (apart from controlling multiple other functions like engine, transmission, and electric steering) to the relevant wheel to compensate for the momentum. The system prevents wheel slippage and skidding, as well as understeer and oversteer, allowing the driver to maintain control of the vehicle in emergency situations by keeping the vehicle headed in the driver’s intended course.
Key Passive Safety Systems
Body shell. A car’s body shell might only just look like a metal structure, but its chassis is a key passive safety system. Lots of time and engineering go into creating a body that is light enough to make a vehicle economical and maneuverable, yet strong enough in the right places so it can protect you in the unfortunate event of a collision. When researching your next car, be sure to look into what technologies have gone into creating its bodyshell. Kia makes use of ultra-high tensile strength steel in our vehicles in order to improve rigidity while minimising weight.
Crumple Zones incorporated in the vehicle’s body shell structure are designed to absorb collision energy in a way that reduces the impact on the vehicle’s passenger compartment and its occupants. People will often incorrectly assess a vehicle as being weak when seeing it crushed, when in fact, modern vehicles are designed to ensure the vehicle absorbs as much impact energy as possible so that its occupants don’t have to.
Airbags are impact-cushioning devices made from nylon, which provides an energy absorbing surface between the occupant and the vehicle’s surrounding components. Generally, the more airbags a vehicle has the better. Airbags are a supplemental restraint system to the safety belts, which is triggered by a pyrotechnic process designed to be used only once. It’s important to note that the airbags’ deployment is dependent on numerous factors, conditions and variables calculated by the algorithm of the Airbag computer.
Seatbelts are probably one of the most important vehicle safety systems. In fact, a vehicle can be equipped with every conceivable active safety system available, but if seatbelts aren’t used, it would have no value at all. While seatbelts have been around for some time, there are new seatbelt related technologies that one can look out for, such as seatbelt pre-tensioners. Seat belt pre-tensioners use the car’s seatbelt to firmly pull occupants into their seats when a collision is detected so they can receive the best possible protection from airbag deployment. It also prevents the occupant from sliding out from under the seatbelt in the event of a collision.
Car seats and Isofix. It’s always important to check fitting lists to make sure that that the car seat you currently use is compatible or recommended for use with the car you intend to purchase.Once you’ve determined this, it is important to remember that the correct installation of your child’s car seat is extremely important. Isofix is a great feature to help mitigate against incorrect car seat installation that may happen when using only seatbelts to secure car seats, which is why Isofix is a crucial feature if you intend using a child seat in your new car.
Tips for finding your next safe vehicle
• Check for the vehicle’s NCAP rating
Use the NCAP rating of vehicle you intend to purchase to compare it to other vehicles in the same segment. But remember: NCAP specifications vary from region to region, so make sure you compare ratings from the same region.
• Check safety specifications on the vehicle brand’s website.
While third-party and used car listing sites are often accurate, it's important to make sure that safety features indicated are available on the vehicle you plan to purchase.
• Develop a safety checklist with a list of your safety requirements
Use this along with your feature wishlist when searching for your next car.
• Check Child Car Seat Safety Ratings and Fitting lists for the brand of car seat you own.
Happy Car Hunting!