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Car safety features

Car safety features

Cars are getting smarter at helping keep motorists and their passengers safe. Discover some of the clever car safety devices vehicles can offer.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
posted 4 NOVEMBER 2019

Active headrests

If your car is hit from behind, active head restraints automatically move up and forward to help absorb any impact to your head, to reduce whiplash injuries.

Adaptive cruise control

Cameras, lasers and radar keep a constant gap between you and other cars on the motorway. If traffic in front of you slows, adaptive cruise control will slow your car down or alert you to put on the brakes. It’s also known as active cruise control or intelligent cruise control.

Adaptive headlights 

Headlights change direction with the steering wheel and can help you see around bends and prevent dazzle. Adaptive LED headlights have cameras and sensors, and change direction and brightness in response to vehicles and pedestrians.


Airbags work using sensors all over the car. If these detect a collision, the airbags inflate very quickly to cushion occupants from an impact.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB)

AEB activates the brakes when the radar and camera at the front of the car detect the risk of a collision in the road ahead. You can get rear AEB too.

Automatic post-collision braking system

If you’re in a collision, this system automatically brakes to help avoid secondary collisions or reduce their severity.

Blind spot detection  

Sensors on the sides and back of the car trigger an alert –a light on or near the side mirror – if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot. It can also help if reversing out of a parking space.

Driver fatigue warnings

Driver distraction and drowsiness recognition (DDDR) can monitor the driver’s head and eye movements, heart rate and patterns of steering and braking. Signs of fatigue trigger a warning noise, light or seat vibration.

Electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

EBD shortens stopping distances and helps the driver keep control of the car when braking. It varies the amount of braking force on each wheel, depending on road conditions, load and speed.

Electronic stability control (ESC)

Sensors on the car wheels, roof and steering wheel detect if the car is beginning to slide and automatically apply the brakes to keep it stable or stop it skidding.

Isofix mounts (at the bottom back of car seats) 

Using these built-in mounts for child car seats minimises the risks of incorrect installation.

Hill start assist

If you’re making a hill start, this system maintains braking for a couple of seconds while you switch from the brake pedal to the accelerator, giving your more control.

Lane departure warning

If you drift out of your lane, this safety feature will sound a warning or make the steering wheel vibrate. Some systems will adjust the steering to keep you in lane.

Lane keeping assist

Steering is automatically corrected to keep a vehicle securely in the centre of a lane. It relies on cameras to identify lane markings and follow them. It’s designed for motorways and is usually deactivated below a set speed.

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Park assist

Sensors can locate a suitable parking place as you drive past. Then the system will help steer you in – you’ll still need to operate the gears, accelerator and brake though.

Rear cross-traffic assist (radar at the back of the car)

Alerts the driver with a sound, light or jolt of the brakes if there’s a moving object – like another car or a pedestrian – near the car’s rear bumper when you’re backing out.

Speed limiters

These systems can give the driver a warning or automatically slow the car down if it goes over the set speed limit. Intelligent speed limiters use GPS, or a combination of GPS and cameras, to change the speed of the car according to the speed limit.

Seat belt reminders (SBR)

SBRs detect when a person is sitting in a seat and give a sound or visual warning if the seat belt isn’t fastened. They’ve been compulsory in the driver’s seat since 2009 under EU rules, and this was extended to all seats in new cars in September 2019.

Reversing camera

Cameras on the car console or mounted on the dashboard make reversing and parking much easier.

Traffic sign recognition system

Traffic signs that you’re passing, such as speed limits and no overtaking signs, are recognised and displayed on your instrument panel.

Tyre pressure monitoring systems

Sensors monitor tyre pressure or wheel speed and alert the driver when tyres are over or under-inflated.

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