It is one thing to drive a car safely, and it is another to drive a safe car. When you follow the traffic guidelines, drive within the speed limit, and wear a seat belt, then you are driving safely. On the other hand, driving a safe car involves using an automobile that has undergone vigorous testing procedures to ensure it offers maximum performance and safety to the benefit of the driver. Here, the manufacturers have utilized the best technology available to ensure passive and active safety features perform to the optimum potential so the occupants of the car are not harmed. Apart from the manufacturers’ efforts, there are also organizations which test every car model in the market to ascertain whether or not they are safe for driving, and then provide a rating for them. Automobile safety is one of the essential ways of assessing if an automobile is suitable for you. The United States’ NHTSA, Europe’s NCAP, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are among the most prominent organizations that make it their priority to ensure manufacturers sell automobiles that are safe for use. These organizations require that vehicle manufacturer to install safety features in their automobile and comply with the guidelines provided so they can receive safety ratings.
If you are acquiring an automobile, it’s imperative to spare some time out of your busy schedule so you can determine the safety rating of the vehicle you intend to acquire. Things from the active safety components such as automatic braking, headlamps, and reverse backup sensors to the passive elements such as the seat belts, airbags, and the glass windshields will go a long way in ensuring you remain safe while driving your auto.
How are Automobiles Tested?
When it comes to testing the safety of vehicles, there are a number of tests that are used to determine safety by reflecting real-world accidents. The range of tests used in determining car safety has been improved to accommodate sophisticated safety technology being offered by recent automobiles such as speed assistance and automatic braking. For instance, one of the ways car safety organizations such as NCAP measures a car’s safety is by using crash-test dummies. The highly-advanced dummies that are meant to replicate humans are fitted with sensors which record what the outcome could be if an actual human was hit by the car. These kinds of tests usually treat a child and human occupant differently, with smaller safety test dummies employed to replicate infants in the car.
There are different kinds of impact test used including the frontal, car-to-car-side impact, pedestrian protection, pole side impact, among others.
- Frontal impact–This test is straightforward and is used to determine the resilience of an automobile to impact. In this test, a vehicle traveling at 40mph crashes into a barrier and NCAP measures the effectiveness of occupants’ protection. This type of test is used to assess the effectiveness of seat belts, airbags, and vehicle’s structure.
- Car-to-car-side impact–As a safety test, this one determines the ability of a car to protect its occupants if it’s hit by another car from its side. A large robot hits the car on its side and then “injuries” sustained by the robots are recorded.
- Pedestrian protection –Safety organizations do not only care about the well-being of the occupants but the pedestrians as well. With an excellent design of the automobile, it is possible to protect pedestrians. This type of test usually simulates child and adult pedestrian collisions and evaluates how well the design of the vehicle can protect them.
- Pole side impact –This kind of impact usually takes place when you skid off the highway and directly into a lamp post or a tree. Although this is similar to car-to-car-side test, in this case, it’s the vehicle moving and not the object.
What Safety Features should you be Concerned About?
There are a number of safety features you need to be aware of when assessing the safety of an automobile. However, the most important ones include:
- Crash avoidance technologies
When acquiring a new vehicle, it’s essential to find out whether it comes with an optional or standard forward collision warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, blind spot detection, and auto brake.
- Electronic Stability Control
The Electronic Stability Control has existed since the model year of 2012, but in the case of a used car, you need to ensure that your car has the essential safety features. You can always check the website of reputable organizations such as NCAP and IIHS for this kind of information.
- Side airbags
Side airbags offer crucial protection since they protect the chest and the head. Make sure the vehicle you intend to buy also offers these features since some airbag designs are exclusive to some vehicle models. The speed at which the airbags pop is also worth noting. You can inquire about this aspect when acquiring an automobile from the dealership.
Which is Safer, Used or New?
The moment you take your new car out of the lot, it loses approximately 20 percent of its value because it isn’t new anymore. This is quite a major drawback. But there are various reasons why a new car is preferable to an old one. Besides the appearance and smell, there is a high chance the car has new safety features installed as opposed to their older versions. So, you may opt to go for a high end automobiles such as the new Ford Edge that contains all the important safety features that warn you in case you are about to hit or collide with something. If you are not sure about what you are looking for, you can always find out about the car you want to buy by simply looking for its details online.
On the other hand, used vehicles can be beneficial and of great value, if you decide to buy from a reputable dealer. If you are working with a mechanic you trust, it’s advisable to take the car for a test drive and have your mechanic review it. Make sure all the usual safety features such as anti-lock brakes and airbags are available.
Use NHTSA Website
If the search engine cannot pull the safety rating of your car, consider searching directly on the NHTSA website. This organization offers vehicle ratings which date back to the nineties, so there’s a high chance you will find a rating for your vehicle. If you don’t find the safety ratings of your car, then you may opt for another one which is closer to what you wanted. NHTSA usually doesn’t test every model year. Usually, a test is done once and if there are no changes to the model over its life cycle, no further testing will be conducted.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The IIHS is a private nonprofit organization which is funded by vehicle insurance associations and insurance companies to conduct its testing program and issue ratings for assessed automobiles. IIHS and NHTSA do different tests, but neither of them tests all vehicles on the market. Therefore, if you are searching for the safety of your vehicle, you can visit IIHS websites to see how safe your car is.
What If no Ratings are Available?
In case of certain luxury vehicles, crash tests may not be undertaken mainly because only the government has so many resources. Also, crash tests are conducted on cars that have a high appealing to the masses, so in case of low-volume cars, tests may not be available. So, should you purchase a used automobile without crash-test rating? To some, this is a deal breaker because some drivers will not go for a car that hasn’t been crash-tested. If you still want to buy the car without its safety ratings, then it will be a good idea to check its list of safety features before you can purchase it. That way, you’ll be confident that you are protected in case a collision occurs.
The safety rating of your automobile is paramount as it helps you know how safe you are when driving the car. You can drive safe, but that is never enough. You need to have a car that is safe to drive as well so you can minimize the likelihood of being injured during an impact. With the above considerations, you’ll be in a position to determine whether or not you are driving a safe car. However, you don’t need to depend solely on these tests to assess the safety of your car. What’s more, although it’s a good thing, car manufacturers usually design their automobiles so they can pass the crash tests. However, safety needs to be part and parcel of the car’s DNA and not because the car needs to pass some test. If you have studied to learn or studied to pass an exam, then you most likely understand the difference. Lastly, you need to note that regional safety standards often depend on certain driving conditions. For instance, the safest car in UAE’s winter is not the safest in Canadian summer.