Vehicle Features and Devices

There are two types of safety features in vehicles - primary and secondary.

Primary safety features are ones that help the driver avoid having a crash (e.g. anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control). Some technology, like some Collision Warning Systems, are active features because the system will start engaging the brakes if it senses that the driver is not taking action to slow down.

Secondary safety features are ones that help reduce the consequences of a crash such as airbags and body engineering that directs the force of a crash away from the occupants (see diagram in Related Images).

Some safety features include

  • airbags - whose placement can range from only in the dashboard, to the knee well, the door pillar. Curtain airbags (an airbag that inflates and covers the side windows) can help reduce injuries in rollover and side impact crashes if they stay inflated for a slightly longer time than normal.
  • seatbelts - seatbelts stop people being thrown out of a crashed vehicle and from hitting some parts of the interior when they are thrown forward. Some seatbelts can be adjusted so that the shoulder strap is at the correct height for the person in the seat.
  • seatbelt reminders - are a simple safety feature designed to remind people in the vehicle to put on their seatbelt. They can vary from being a reminder symbol that lights up to being an audible tone that continues until every person in the vehicle has put on their seatbelt.
  • head protection with soft material in headrest and vehicle side pillar - where possible softer material that will absorb the impact of a person’s head is used in places where it could impact with the interior of the vehicle during a crash.
  • adjustable mirrors - help the driver monitor what is happening and make it safer to change lanes if they are correctly adjusted.
  • anti-lock brakes - when a crash happens the driver often brakes suddenly and forcefully. This can cause the brakes to lock and skidding to occur. If a driver whose vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes needs to stop quickly they need to ‘pump’ the brakes to stop the wheels locking and prevent the vehicle skidding. Anti-lock brakes are designed to stop this happening as they carry out the pumping action instead of the driver.
  • traction control - is used to stop the wheels spinning or slipping if the driver applies too much power.
  • electronic stability control - works alongside anti-lock brakes, and is designed to help the driver keep control of the vehicle (usually in emergency situations) to stop it spinning out of control. It does this by selectively braking individual wheels and reducing engine torque to bring the vehicle back on course. It has been found to be very effective in reducing deaths, and will be compulsory in new vehicles in some countries in the near future.

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