Safety first: Buying a safe vehicle
Price, style, fuel efficiency, resale value – these are all factors to consider when buying a new car. But there’s one more thing that should also be high on your checklist. Safety.
You might think that all modern cars are safe enough to drive. This is certainly true, as safety technology has improved all round and all vehicles have to pass rigorous tests. That being said, some vehicles are safer than others.
While there are a lot of technical terms and abbreviations, understanding safety features is quite simple. Because all the safety features fit into two categories.
1. Crash protection
Nobody wants to be involved in a collision, but you’ll feel safer knowing your vehicle is designed to protect its occupants as far as possible.
A safe car will have a strong cabin structure that can withstand heavy impacts, so your passengers aren’t affected. Crumple zones, on the other hand, are exterior sectors that absorb as much of the force of the impact as possible.
Curtain and side air bags are of course important, as are head rests that will prevent whiplash. Seatbelts are standard with every car. However, the three point sash seat belts provide better protection than the two point seat belts. Remember that it doesn’t help to have seatbelts if you aren’t using them. Make it a family habit to always put on seatbelts, even if just driving down the block.
2. Crash avoidance
Even better than being protected in a collision is not being in a collision in the first place.
Antilock braking system (ABS) help you maintain control of your vehicle, by preventing the tyres from skidding during heavy braking, or when driving on slippery surfaces.
During acceleration, traction control systems enhance the stability and grip on the road. They measure wheel rotation to stop wheel spin, reduce engine power, and even temporarily apply brakes if necessary. Your vehicle can then accelerate smoothly, even on slippery surfaces.
Electronic stability control (ESC) uses computer controlled technology to apply individual brakes, reducing the possibility of skidding or losing control in a case of over-steering. Should you lose control of your vehicle, ESC helps you get back on track. This feature alone reduces single car crashes by up to 25%.
Does the car pass the test?
It helps knowing what safety features to look out for when shopping around. But don’t neglect your digital resources. At your fingertips, you have access to numerous online safety reviews and rating systems. Do some research to find out if the car you’re interested in meets high enough standards.
For example, NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, gives trusted safety reviews, as well as a safety rating out of five stars. Look out for models that earn at least four stars. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) assesses how well vehicles protect occupants in front, side, rollover and rear crashes, while also rating front crash prevention systems.
Finally, remember that handling and stability in a car is important as well. While you can read reviews on this, sometimes the best is to simply test drive the car. You want to make sure that you’re buying a car you’re comfortable with driving.
The Chevrolet Cruze, which was awarded five stars by NHTSA, and was an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013, is one of the best examples of a safe vehicle currently on the road.