Did you know that according to statistics, driving your car is the most dangerous activity you do? Every year, tens of thousands of serious injuries and fatalities occur on Australian roads, sometimes due to careless drivers and sometimes because of poor vehicle safety.
The majority of vehicle manufacturers now design cars and trucks that are safer than ever, with driver, passenger and pedestrian safety accounted for.
To help you choose the safest vehicle for your needs, we’ve pulled together this handy guide. Learn more about what features to look for, where car safety ratings come from and how to improve your overall safety when travelling.
Safety features to look for in a car
Whether you’re looking for a compact run around to commute to work – or a family car to get the kids to and from school, there are certain standards to look for. While not all of these safety features and car accessories are absolute must-haves, they help improve the overall safety of the vehicle when on the road.
The majority of modern cars, SUVs and light vehicles will come with shatterproof windows as standard. This reinforced glass crumbles on impact instead of breaking into shards. Shatterproof windows can help prevent secondary injury during a crash and should be a top priority when looking at a vehicle’s safety features.
For the last two decades, front airbags have come as standard in all new vehicles. While these have saved countless lives, they have also caused serious injuries and death in their own rights (usually due to passenger refusal to wear a seatbelt).
The majority of vehicles manufactured since 2007 feature adaptive front airbags that detect the position, weight and distance of those in the front seats. This allows them to adapt to certain situations minimising potential injury to front-seat occupants.
A more recent introduction into modern vehicles are side airbags and curtain airbags. These pop out from the sides and around the windows to protect the occupants from flying debris, head injury and side collision impact. Sensors are able to detect when a vehicle is starting to roll and can keep side curtain airbags inflated for longer to provide additional protection.
The seatbelt is by far the most important safety element of any vehicle. Over the past several decades, seat belt technology has advanced to reduce secondary injury during an accident.
As an example, force limiters reduce the force applied to the chest area during an impact. Seatbelt pretensioners better position passengers and reduce slack during an impact.
Other safety features include fully adjustable upper anchors. These can help remove the belt from the neck area and place it across the chest to minimise the risk of a neck injury. LATCH systems are designed for the easier installation of child restraints and booster seats and are a requirement for all modern vehicles.
ABS Anti-lock brakes
ABS helps prevent wheels from locking in the event of needing to hard brake. Vehicles without anti-lock brakes can be almost impossible to control when the front wheels are locked. This is particularly true for wet or slippery surfaces.
ABS technology uses an on-board computer and wheel sensors to provide solo braking for each individual wheel. This lets the driver retain control of steering during braking, making it possible to maneuver around objects.
Those who are new to anti-lock brakes can find the pulsating sensation when braking concerning. Once you have become accustomed to pushing the brake pedal to the metal and letting the system take control, things become less scary.
Pre-collision technology is available in a variety of formats. While not every vehicle will include all types, some to be aware of when looking to buy a new or second-hand car include:
Forward collision warning
Using a combination of laser, radar and camera, an FCW system alerts the driver of potential collisions with vehicles in front of them via an audio signal.
Using cameras or sensors, blind spot warnings turn on a light on the outside mirrors and play an audio warning to let you know that a vehicle is hidden out of view in the next lane.
Automatic emergency braking
Using a combination of sensors connected to a central onboard computer, AEB will use information from Forward Collision Warnings to engage the brakes automatically in the event of an oncoming collision.
Many modern vehicles come with a rearview camera as standard. When the vehicle is put into reverse, a video screen console turns on to show the driver the view behind the vehicle. This helps with reverse parking and spotting pedestrians during the process.
Another common feature used when parking. Front and rear sensors embedded on the bumpers play an audio warning when the vehicle is approaching external objects such as telephone poles, walls, parked cars and trees.
ESP Electronic Stability Program
Also known as electronic stability control, many newer vehicles manufactured since 2012 provide improved traction via sensors linked to a computer. These sensors detect wheel rotation, wheel speed, sideways motion and steering angle.
Should the vehicle start to drift outside of the intended path, these sensors notify the onboard computer system to start applying the brakes on one or several of the wheels while reducing the power of the engine to regain its intended course.
Hyundai uses the name Electronic Stability Program while Mitsubishi calls it M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Skid and Traction Control System).
Car safety ratings in Australia
Whether you are looking to buy a new or used car, it’s important to check out the vehicles safety ratings beforehand. These can help you determine which vehicle will be safest for your needs. In Australia, there are two organisations that regularly update and publish their databases for both types of purchase.
Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP)
The Australian New Car Assessment Program safety ratings cover new vehicles, SUVs and LCVs with a star rating of 0 to 5. The ratings relate to the overall safety of the driver, passengers and pedestrians in the event of a crash.
Ratings also include any modern technology implemented to minimise the impact of a crash. Similar sized vehicles are compared against each other to determine which are the safest and which are not. It’s important to know that the ratings supplied by ANCAP do not cover used or second-hand vehicles.
Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR’s)
Unlike ANCAP, UCSR provides a safety rating for used vehicles using compiled crash data collected between 1990 and 2017 in Australia and New Zealand. With more than 8 million individual crashes analyzed, it offers comprehensive data covering primary and secondary safety.
For the most part, safety ratings look at specific vehicles and the protection they offer to the vehicle’s occupants in the event of a crash. When looking for the safest used cars, look for those that have a “safe pick” award. These are determined to be the safest vehicles for both driver and other road users in the event of an accident.
Are second-hand cars safe?
While it’s true that many new cars come with impressive safety features, many second-hand vehicles are just as safe. When purchasing a second-hand car, it’s a better idea to purchase from a reputable car dealership where you can get all of the information you need before going ahead with the transaction.
It’s also a good idea to check out the vehicles Used Car Safety Rating to check that it satisfies your needs. If you’re unsure about which vehicle to go for, visit your local dealer. They will be able to help you make a more informed decision.
Choosing the safest car for you
At Booth’s Motor Group, we are dedicated to car safety. We are always more than happy to answer any safety concerns or features you would like to know more about. Drop by our showrooms and discuss your needs with our friendly and helpful team. When it comes to Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Ford vehicles, we have the perfect fit for you.