There many variables to consider in determining what makes one automobile safer than another. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety strives to provide consumers with the information they need to make safe choices when purchasing cars.
In the area of vehicle research, they offer information on both crash avoidance and crash worthiness. Crash worthiness is the ability of a structure to protect its occupants during an impact.
What makes one car safer than another? What features contribute to car safety? What features make one car more dangerous than another? What is the ideal combination to keep your family safe?
VEHICLE SIZE AND WEIGHT
Crash tests show that heavy cars offer more protection than light cars with the same safety equipment. If you want to buy a smaller car because it’s less expensive, you need to realize that there may be a trade-off in terms of safety. That’s because larger and heavier cars are safer than smaller and lighter ones. Small cars have twice as many occupant deaths each year than larger cars. The larger car’s weight and its resistance to rolling over keep you safer. Large cars also have an advantage in frontal crashes because there is a larger crash zone to absorb the impact of the crash.
HIGH PERFORMANCE VS. SAFETY
Horsepower measures how much force the engine can apply in a certain time period. If your vehicle is extremely high in horsepower you’re more likely at some point to test it to the limit, so you’re safer if you don’t have that opportunity. Buying an immature teenager a high performance car is not wise.
Belts, airbags and head restraints all work together with a vehicle’s structure to protect people in serious crashes.
- Seat belts keep you inside the vehicle and stop you from colliding with the windshield, steering wheel, and dashboard. Additionally, some cars now have belt crash pretensioners, which retract the seat belt to remove slack instantly upon impact.
- Front and side airbags inflate to protect your body from collision with the car’s interior objects and the windshield. Airbags and lap/shoulder belts together are very effective.
- Head restraints limit head movement during a rear-impact crash, protecting your neck from injury. Some head restraints have to be adjusted manually. Others adjust automatically during a crash or when seat position changes. However, if restraints are adjustable, you must be sure they can be locked into place so they will remain stable during a crash.
Anti-lock brakes pump automatically to prevent lockup and allow you to maintain safe steering control. Some systems also detect speed or force and boost power as needed, reducing the stopping distance by eliminating delay. Learning to use the anti-lock brake system correctly is key to getting the safest benefit from this system.
The industry’s knowledge of physics is increasing the ability to produce safer cars for your family. You can get a rating of crash worthiness from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s web site (http://www.highwayafe.org).