Q: What is Car Safety?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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An important consideration when purchasing an automobile is the car safety options included with that purchase. No matter how experienced you may be behind the wheel or how cautious you are as a driver, there is still the possibility of being involved in an accident due to another's actions or simply due to road hazards. The safety features of your car can make a great difference in the outcome of such a collision, possibly even to the point of saving your life.

There are several car safety features and options available to the buyer of a new car that should be considered before making a purchase. The most common ones are the air bags and the car brakes installed in the vehicle.

Airbags are occupant restraint devices placed at common impact points throughout the car. These devices consist of a fabric bag that expands into the interior of the car through a burst of air created by a chemical reaction, in order to cushion the driver or passenger during a collision.

Airbags are generally placed in a steering wheel to protect the head and sternum of the driver from connecting with the wheel, and in the passenger's dash to protect the passenger from impacting the dashboard or the windshield. Both of these airbag placements are intended to provide protection in the event of a head-on collision, expanding when the vehicle experiences a serious frontal crash with another object. In addition to these placements, a vehicle may also have side-impact airbags placed into the doors or seats of the vehicle. These expand with the use of compressed air whenever a side impact occurs. As with the front airbags, the side units are intended to cushion the occupants of the vehicle from the surfaces within the car's interior.

First introduced as safety features in the 1970s, airbags did not begin to gain widespread use until late in the 1980s. For the greatest level of effectiveness, airbags must be considered as supplemental restraints and used along with seat belts.

Another common car safety feature of modern automobiles is the antilock brake systems that most cars have. While any modern braking system placed on new cars is effective at stopping a vehicle, antilock brakes truly add a level of safety to the braking process.

The most effective braking period for a car occurs right before normal brakes lock onto the vehicle's wheels. This locking stops the wheels from spinning, but does not stop the vehicle's forward motion. The result is an uncontrollable skid. With antilock brakes, the brakes never lock onto the wheel, because they are designed to "pump" the brakes without locking them up, thus stopping forward motion without creating the skid. This allows you to continue to steer the vehicle during the braking process, which can allow you to steer out of the path of a collision while still getting the full stopping benefit.

Car safety is an important aspect of vehicle design. Antilock brakes can help to prevent a collision, while airbags help to cushion the impact should a collision occur. These two car safety features, along with others that may be included in a car model, can go a long way towards increasing the chances for the vehicle's occupants to survive an impact without serious injury or fatalities.

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