Vehicles with sound structures and the best safety systems regularly score higher in ANCAP crash tests.
Structural integrity - how a vehicle's shell withstands and channels external forces away from occupants in a crash - varies substantially from make to make and model to model. A sound structure is vital when it comes to saving lives.
Built-in safety features such as airbags, antilock braking systems (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC) and seat belt pre-tensioners help prevent or deal with the forces of impact. All are critical features.
Explore these important vehicle safety features.
In a vehicle with sound structural integrity, most of the crash energy is absorbed and dissipated. The passenger compartment will also keep its shape. The steering column, dash, roof pillars, pedals and floor panels will not move excessively, where they are more likely to injure the occupants. Doors will remain closed during the crash and will be able to be opened after the crash to assist quick rescue.
Imagine the sudden appearance of an obstacle on the freeway. A driver's natural reaction is to quickly steer away to avoid colliding with the obstacle.
This sudden movement can lead to the vehicle swerving sharply one way and then sharply back the other way causing the vehicle to slide or skid uncontrollably and often resulting in a serious crash. ESC helps avoid this situation.
By constantly monitoring the position and direction of the car with where the driver is steering, ESC can detect that the vehicle is not traveling in the direction intended.
The system intervenes, instantly manipulating the delivery of engine power and controlling the brake pressure applied to each individual wheel. By taking over, ESC helps to return the vehicle to a straighter and safer line. ESC also assists in controlling a vehicle on unexpectedly tight corners, or on a slippery section of the road. Research shows significant reductions in run-off-road crashes when ESC is fitted.
The system is particularly valuable in large 4WDs, which have a higher centre of gravity.
This enables the driver to have steering control, preventing skidding and loss of traction. This is particularly useful on loose surfaces or wet conditions.
Both ESC and ABS are complimentary technologies, working in synchronisation to provide greater control of the vehicle and reduce the chance of crashing.
Frontal airbags deploy on impact in head-on or offset (usually where an on-coming vehicle collides at an angle on the drivers side) collisions where the force of impact is greater than hitting a solid wall at a speed greater than 25 km/h. The airbag reduces the impact when the driver or front passenger is propelled forward as the vehicle rapidly reduces speed during an accident. Frontal airbags typically deflate after impact.
Side airbags are an important innovation in vehicle safety equipment for protecting occupants in side impact crashes such as at intersections or when a vehicle veers off the road and crashes side-on into an object like a pole or tree. Side airbags protect the head and the torso for both front and rear seat occupants. These airbags may also offer protection in rollover crashes or when two vehicles collide at an angle.
Curtain airbags provide additional safety for the head or passengers seated in the front or rear. They are particularly effective against collision with narrow objects such as poles and trees and provide additional protection from bull-bar intrusion into the vehicle. Unlike frontal airbags, curtain bags remain inflated after impact reducing the risk of an unbelted occupant being thrown from the vehicle in a rollover crash.
Knee airbags are designed to prevent serious injury arising from an impact with the dashboard or steering column.
Audible seat belt reminders are valuable devices that encourage all occupants to wear their seat belts. In nearly 20% of all fatalities on Australian roads, no seat belt was being worn.
Child restraints should be fitted and conform to Australian Standards, including anchor points. For more information, visit the NRMA website.
Choose a vehicle with features that protect drivers and passengers and increase driver control. If it's not a 4 or 5 star rated vehicle - cross it off your list!