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.
The 2015 Kia Sedona has been crash-tested by the federal government for occupant protection, and with its mostly top-tier Insurance Institute for Highway (IIHS) ratings... read more April 15, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2015 Ford F-150 makes some great leaps ahead, with its aluminum-intensive, aerospace-styled construction, fuel-efficient turbocharged engines, and tech-loaded cabin. But... read more April 14, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Toyota recently announced plans to make what has been a rather exclusive kind of active-safety system a lot more accessible—by making affordable auto-braking systems... read more April 13, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Safety is no longer a back-burner priority for new-car shoppers. Across most types of vehicle shoppers, it’s one of the top concerns. Many families, as we recommend... read more April 6, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Ford Motor Co. is recalling some 2011-2013 Ford Explorer models, as well as Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, for an issue that may prevent the door from staying... read more March 25, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
GM’s new mid-size pickups, the 2015 GMC Canyon and 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, offer more available safety features than rival models like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan... read more March 24, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Most of us were at one point teen drivers, and we’re all too familiar with the more risk-riddled mentality of youth. Compound that with less actual driving skill and... read more March 20, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
What a difference one model year makes—especially if you’re considering the Nissan Sentra. While the 2014 model was strictly mid-pack in its occupant-safety... read more February 26, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2016 Kia Sorento has been run through the full set of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, and it’s emerged with top-tier ‘good’... read more February 20, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Safety might have been seen as a distant priority in the past for those buying pony cars like the Ford Mustang; but today there’s no reason to compromise on occupant... read more February 16, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Two of the smallest crossover utility vehicles on the market have been awarded a very good set of safety ratings. The 2015 Buick Encore and 2015 Chevrolet Trax have both... read more February 10, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
The 2015 BMW X3 is already one of the sportiest yet most fuel-efficient compact crossovers good for family use. And now with fresh New Car Assessment (NCAP) crash-test... read more February 2, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
The chances of dying in a car crash, if you’re behind the wheel of a newer vehicle, have dropped dramatically over the past several years. In just three years, studying... read more January 29, 2015 by Bengt Halvorson
Safety is no longer a back-burner priority for new-car shoppers. Across most types of vehicle shoppers, it’s one of the top concerns. Some vehicles simply don’t... read more January 24, 2015 by Marty Padgett
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