Safety By Design
How to Choose a Safe Car
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This page is being replaced/updated -- please bear with us (Jan. 2004)
Choosing a car is about more than whether it simply looks good, goes fast or is economical. None of those features are much use if the proud new owners end up becoming road crash casualties.
There are three distinctly different types of safety feature that one should consider when choosing a new vehicle. For potentially vulnerable individuals, such as women traveling alone, personal security in and around a stationary vehicle may be of great importance. Then there is the potential risk of collision injury to be considered, but this is a two-fold issue. Naturally you need to consider the safety of yourself and your passengers, but in addition we should all think carefully about the risk of injury to other people, outside our vehicle, too.
The first level of safety, for any vehicle, is that your remote control, or key, should initially unlock one door only. If it can just unlock all of the doors simultaneously, there is always the risk that someone with evil intentions could enter the vehicle, or reach in and grab something, as you are getting in.
In terms of accident safety, the most important feature of any vehicle is the seat belts but one thing to look for -- even though this is becoming less and less common -- is that all of the seat belts have three anchorage points, and that none of the middle seats have only 'lap straps.' So-called 'two-point' belts are ineffective and can fail to save a person's life when a three-point belt would have done so. Does it need to be said that a person who doesn't wear their seat belt is gambling with their life? People in this category seem to forget that they are not in sole control. Other drivers, driving badly, can and do cause serious crashes.
Airbags are an excellent supplement to seat belts these days, but that is exactly what they are -- a supplement. A seat belt should never be left off in the inaccurate hope that an airbag is all one needs. Plenty people have died because of that false belief. if you are buying a new or nearly new car, it is very wise indeed to look for one that has not the usual 'front' airbags but also 'side' airbags that protect ones pelvis and torso, and 'curtain' airbags that protect the side of one's head in a side impact or a roll-over situation.
[Head restraints - text needed] One excellent source of information regarding the safety-value of head restraints in various makes of car is given at the IIHS website.
Crash Test results are one obvious way to help choose a car that may one day be responsible for keeping you and your family alive. You can also enter details of a specific make and model of car at Insure.com's S.A.F.E. Car Program website. But there are several things you should always consider when the time comes to change your vehicle.
[Impacts and Crumple Zones - text needed]
As can be seen, above, there are many things to consider in the above three categories of safety. We will shortly provide this information in a checklist so that you can print it out and take it with you when you go to look at new cars.
Information on choosing a safe new car may also be found on the IIHS website.