New Car Safety Features For the Next Generation

Buckle up

Along with technological advances in vehicle performance, comfort, and amenities have come advances in safety technology. You can now purchase vehicles that have:

  • Seat belt systems with improved performance and comfort
  • Side air bags and redesigned front air bags
  • Interior head protection to reduce head injuries
  • Head restraints to help reduce neck injuries in rear impact crashes
  • Anti-lock brake systems to prevent a vehicle's wheels from locking during "panic" braking
  • Traction control to improve vehicle stability and steering control
  • All-wheel drive to distribute power between the front and rear wheels
  • Automatic-dimming rearview mirrors that reduce headlight glare
  • Daytime running lights that increase vehicle visibility to other drivers

Get the Most Value for Your Dollar

Driving a vehicle with enhanced safety features may not only save the life of someone you know and reduce injuries in the event of a crash, it may also save you money. In some states, certain safety features on a vehicle, such as air bags and anti-lock brakes, reduce the cost of insurance. Safety features may also boost your vehicle's resale value because consumers are increasingly recognizing the importance of vehicle safety. Whether you are concerned about safety or saving money, knowing about the latest in safety technology enables you to compare all new vehicle features so that you get the most value for your dollar.

Be Smarter About Your Car -We will help review:

  1. Some of the common safety features available on new vehicles
  2. Ways to compare standard and optional safety features on similar vehicles
  3. How to perform a safety check

The safety features chart show what is available on 2006 vehicles, according to size and type.

1500 lbs - 1999 2000 lbs - 2499 2500 lbs - 3000 3000 lbs - 3499 3500 & Over

New Car Safety Features : The following describes basic info on each feature and how it works. This info will help you understand sales literature and prepare you to ask your dealer questions. Some manufacturers may use other design features to perform the same function as these.

Seat Belts

In the event of a crash, seat belts are designed to keep you inside the vehicle. They also reduce the risk that you will collide with the steering wheel, dashboard, or windshield. New seat belt designs have additional features that improve seat belt performance.

Adjustable upper belts. An adjustable upper belt lets you change the height of the shoulder strap to accommodate a person's size. This feature may encourage passengers to wear their belts, since it increases shoulder belt comfort.

Seat belt pretensioner. Pretensioners retract the seat belt to remove excess slack, almost instantly, in a crash. However, you still need to adjust your seat belt as snugly as possible, since pretensioners are not powerful enough to pull you back into your seat. Like air bags, pretensioners are usually one use devices and need to be replaced after a crash.

Energy management features. Energy management features allow seat belts to give or yield to prevent forces on the shoulder belt (during a severe crash) from concentrating too much energy on your chest. These features include load limiters built into the shoulder belt retractor and/or tear stitching in the webbing that causes the seat belt to extend gradually.

Rear center seat lap/shoulder belts. Although manufacturers are only required to have lap belts in the rear center position, some provide a lap/shoulder belt. This added feature is especially beneficial to older children and children in booster seats who are often seated in the rear center position.

Air Bags

Depending on the speed at impact and the stiffness of the object struck, front air bags inflate to prevent occupants from hitting the dashboard, steering wheel, and windshield. Side air bags reduce the risk that occupants will hit the door or objects that crash through it. Driver and front passenger air bags are standard equipment in all 1999 model year vehicles.

Redesigned air bags. In March 1997, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enhanced automakers' ability to reduce the power of their air bags by 20 to 35 percent. Many automakers are now including redesigned air bags in 1999 vehicles. So ask your local dealer for information about changes in air bag design and performance.

On-off switches. An on-off switch can deactivate driver or passenger air bags. Vehicles without rear seats, or with small rear seats, such as pickups and sports cars, may have a passenger-side, on-off switch as standard equipment. You can get authorization from NHTSA to have an on-off switch installed by a dealer or repair shop if you:

  • Cannot avoid placing a rear-facing infant seat in the front seat
  • Have been advised by a physician that you have a medical condition that places you at specific risk
  • Cannot adjust your driver's position to keep your breastbone back approximately 10 inches from the center of the steering wheel
  • Cannot avoid situations, such as a car pool, that require a child 12 or under to ride in the front seat

You can get a brochure about on-off switches and an installation request form from local vehicle dealerships, AAA offices, state motor vehicle offices, and NHTSA. Since on-off switches are not available for all vehicles, verify availability of a switch for your vehicle before you request authorization for its installation.

Side air bags. Side air bags provide additional chest protection by inflating instantly during many side crashes; some, also provide head protection. However, side air bags are not required by law. Most manufacturers use padding or improved door and body structures to meet federal side-impact requirements. Check with the dealer or read the owner's manual for information and warnings about child passengers and side air bags.

Head Injury Protection

Head injury protection consists of foam or other energy absorbing material under the trim of the vehicle interior and is likely to be invisible to vehicle occupants. Some vehicles have head air bags. Both types of protection are designed to shield occupants from injuries caused when their head strikes the upper interior of a vehicle.

By the year 2003, all vehicles must meet new Federal standards for head injury protection. Charts show which 1999 vehicles already meet them.

Head Restraints

Head restraints are extensions of the vehicleâs seats that limit head movement during a rear-impact crash, thus, reducing the probability of neck injury. While you must adjust most head restraints manually, some adjust automatically with changes in seat position or in a crash. You can move manually adjustable head restraints up and down (vertical adjustments) and, in some instances, forward and backward (horizontal adjustments).

To be effective, the top of the head restraint should be between the top of your ears and the top of your head. Horizontal placement should be as close to your head as possible, without pushing it forward or causing the height of the head restraint to drop. Some vehicles have rear seat head restraints, as noted in the charts.

Anti-lock Brake Systems

Anti-lock brake systems (ABS) prevent a vehicles wheels from locking during panic braking and allow the driver to maintain steering control as the vehicle slows ÷ a key factor in avoiding a collision. However, ABS do not guarantee your ability to avoid a crash, especially when having to stop suddenly. Furthermore, you still may lose control when driving at excessive speeds or when using extreme steering maneuvers. All passenger cars equipped with ABS have four-wheel ABS.

Sport utility vehicles, trucks, and vans equipped with ABS can have either four-wheel or two-wheel ABS. Four-wheel ABS monitor and control all the wheels of the vehicle, while two-wheel ABS only monitor and control the rear wheels of a vehicle. The full benefits of ABS are not available to the driver with a two-wheel ABS. In vehicles with two-wheel ABS, the front wheels can still lock during hard or panic braking and this lockup can result in the loss of steering control.