The subject is generally grouped into two areas: active safety and passive safety. Active safety refers to features or attributes that might allow you to avoid an accident; passive safety refers to features or attributes that help protect occupants during (or right after) a crash.
In the scope of automotive history, the focus on safety is a relatively recent one. Fifty years ago, relatively minor accidents could leave occupants mortally wounded; and even a decade ago, occupant safety wasn’t nearly the priority that it is for today’s new-car shoppers.
In the U.S., crash-test programs have driven occupant protection rapidly since the 1990s. While the federal New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) has overseen crash-testing of vehicles since 1979, the insurance-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also been crucial. It began crash-testing and rating new vehicles in 1995. Since then it’s added side impact, rear impact (seat), and roof strength tests, as well as a new small-overlap frontal test. In order to provide more useful information for shoppers, the NCAP tests and ratings were revised in 2010.
Frontal-impact occupant airbags were first introduced in the 1970s, but they didn’t become widely offered in luxury cars until the 1980s and most mass-market models until the 1990s (they were required by 1998). Side-impact airbags were introduced in luxury cars in the 1990s, then made it into most mass-market models by the middle of this past decade; they were required by 2009, with a later phase-in of head-protecting airbags.
Electronic stability control has been another critical life-saving feature—especially in reducing the number of rollover-related fatalities. And in more recent years, a host of active technologies—ranging from lane-departure systems to blind-spot systems to those that help warn if you’re drowsy—have added to driver safety. Some even help brake the vehicle or nudge it back on course.
In this age of more rakish designs—and with a much wider range of vehicle sizes, shapes, and packages than in the past—outward visibility has become an important issue. In some vehicles, camera systems help make up for this in parking, although visibility still might make lane changes more difficult. Additionally, the way in which a vehicle steers, brakes, and even accelerates can play a role in safety, as well as how it rides over certain road surfaces.
Driver distraction remains one of the top safety issues of the day, which has led to much debate over whether advanced vehicle interfaces that allow easier, integrated hands-free communication increase or decrease overall safety.
In the future, so-called driverless car projects could permit enhanced safety by essentially automating the act of driving while in gridlock or on a commute.
Once only found on luxury models from the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, advanced active safety technology is quickly finding its way into more mainstream vehicles. The... read more March 19, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
Volvo is conducting a voluntary safety recall of certain 2012 model year Volvo S60 sedans and XC60 crossovers over concerns about excessive underbody coatings that could... read more March 18, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
Subaru is recalling certain 2009-2012 model year Forester SUVs over concerns about a defect in the automatic locking retractor in rear center seats. A notice on the National... read more March 16, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
If you want advanced safety systems on your next set of wheels but can't afford an expensive luxury ride, you may want to take a trip down to your local Subaru showroom... read more March 16, 2012 by Richard Read 4
Nissan is recalling certain 2003-2004 Infiniti M45 large luxury sedans over concerns about a circuit board defect leading to inaccurate fuel gauge readings. A notice in the... read more March 13, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
General Motors is recalling certain 2012 model year Buick Regal sedans over concerns about faulty parking lights. A notice in the National Highway Traffic Safety... read more March 13, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
The Volvo V40 that just debuted at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show won't be coming to America, but one of its technology components might make the trip. The snazzy five-door hatch... read more March 12, 2012 by Richard Read 3
At a base price of just $11,750, the 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan costs less than most late-model used cars. And with standard side and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability... read more March 8, 2012 by Bengt Halvorson 0
Toyota is conducting a voluntary safety recall campaign on certain 2009 model year Toyota Camry mid-size sedans and certain 2009 to 2011 model year Toyota Venza mid-size... read more March 7, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
About 495,000 Toyota Tacoma pickups are being recalled for an issue in the steering-wheel assembly that could lead to airbag deployment failure. The recall covers certain... read more March 7, 2012 by Bengt Halvorson 0
Chrysler is conducting a voluntary safety recall campaign of certain 2004-2005 model year Jeep Liberty SUVs over concerns about corrosion that could lead to loss of vehicle... read more March 7, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 2
Come this Thursday, March 8, Pennsylvania will be the latest state with an all-driver texting ban that goes into effect. The tally so far: 35 states, plus Washington, D.C... read more March 5, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
Before any ruling goes into effect on the complex and emotional issue of distracted driving, the public still has time to provide comments. This comes in the form of three... read more March 3, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
Nissan is recalling certain 2011-2012 model year Nissan Quest minivans over concerns about fuel pump software programming that could lead to engine stall. A notice in the... read more March 3, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0
Nissan is recalling certain 2003-2005 model year Infiniti Q45 full-size luxury sedans over concerns about a defect in the wiring connector of seat-mounted side airbags. A... read more March 3, 2012 by Suzanne Kane 0