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.
Safety technology—including airbags, seatbelts, crash structures, and much more—has saved an estimated 613,501 lives since 1960, according to a newly released... read more January 22, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2015 Mitsubishi Miragemight feel like a 1990s-era economy car in many respects, but it certainly protects much better than one. Shoppers can have a little more confidence... read more December 29, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
This past week, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released its annual list of its best picks for shoppers who want to make safety a priority—in the form... read more December 27, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
The federal government has released updated crash-test results for the 2015 Dodge Challenger, and the results are mostly good for this big performance-oriented coupe lineup... read more December 18, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2015 BMW X5 has been run through the full set of crash tests overseen by the federal government, and it’s emerged with top-tier ratings. ALSO SEE: North American... read more December 9, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
A full slate of U.S. crash-test safety ratings are in for the 2015 Toyota Camry, and the results are mostly top-notch. With federal New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) test... read more December 4, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F] has revealed that it will be issuing a recall for 2015 Ford Mustang models with the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, for a potential... read more December 4, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
The federal government has crash-tested the 2015 Ford Transit Connect Wagon, and the news is good—with this seven-passenger model achieving top five-star results... read more November 24, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has finally put some of the most popular minivans through its newest small-overlap crash test--and for a trio of vans, the... read more November 19, 2014 by Marty Padgett
Compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape have long been popular sedan substitutes for small or growing families. And now, at last, there’s a new crop of... read more November 16, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2015 Subaru Legacy sedan and its rugged Outback wagon counterpart have aced federal New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) crash tests. And with top scores already in from the... read more November 14, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
Need to catch up on all the recent GM recalls and verify what might affect your vehicle? General Motors has since earlier this year released regular updates on a table... read more November 6, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
Nissan North America is issuing a recall of some 2013 Infiniti QX56 and 2014 Infiniti QX80 sport-utility vehicles over concerns that the airbag could malfunction, potentially... read more November 1, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
For General Motors [NYSE: GM], this year’s record recalls—especially its ignition-related recalls—will almost surely end up costing not just the company... read more October 28, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson
General Motors [NYSE: GM] has issued two safety-related recalls for its 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. The two recalls affect about 900 cars in all, with a driver’s... read more October 27, 2014 by Bengt Halvorson