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Car safety features explained

When you’re buying a new car, how much thought do you give to its safety features? Yet they’re arguably the most important factor you should consider. Here’s a guide to the latest car-safety tech, and how it could save your life.

When you’re buying a new car, how much thought do you give to its safety features? Yet they’re arguably the most important factor you should consider. Here’s a guide to the latest car-safety tech, and how it could save your life.

Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
31 JANUARY 2022
4 min read
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Car safety features

According to government figures, human error contributes to a full 85% of car accidents. But, these days, new cars come equipped with a whole host of safety features, some of which are designed to reduce your risk of an accident. Others are there to protect you if you do find yourself in a crash.

What are active safety features?

Active safety features are the ones that help prevent you having an accident in the first place. Examples of these include autonomous braking systems and electronic stability control.

If you’re in the market for a new car, here’s a list of some of the car safety features you should be looking out for:

Electronic stability control (ESC)

Electronic stability control was one of the earliest car-safety systems. It was considered so successful that it’s been fitted as standard in every new car in Europe since 2014 . But what exactly is it?

ESC reduces your chance of skidding or overturning if you lose control on a bend or need to swerve quickly. If the car’s ESC system senses that you’re about to skid, it applies the brake to individual wheels. This helps you to regain control of the car.

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)

Many people consider Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) to be the most important car-safety development since the seatbelt. Certainly, studies have shown that it can significantly reduce your chances of a crash.

The way autonomous emergency braking – or AEB – works is simple: if you get too close to another vehicle, your car will automatically perform an emergency stop. AEB doesn’t just prevent you colliding with cars, either. It can also prevent collisions with people, bikes and animals.

Cars with AEB use sensors to detect obstacles in the road. When the car detects one, it may first sound an alarm. If you don’t react, the brakes come on.

Adaptive cruise control

Adaptive C ruise control automatically regulates your speed, without you having to keep your foot on the accelerator. Designed to make driving easier and safer, adaptive cruise control is a baby step towards self-driving cars.

Standard cruise control

Cruise control works best on the motorway, when you’re travelling at a constant speed. It used to be associated with high-end, luxury cars, but these days you’ll find it on more affordable models, too.

Electronic brake-force distribution (EBD)

Electronic brake-force distribution is designed to give you stronger, safer braking in an emergency. It involves applying different amounts of brake to each wheel, depending on factors like your speed, the weather, and what type of road surface you’re travelling on.

Lane-keeping technology

Are you one of those people who drift out of lane when you’re driving? It can happen to all of us, particularly if you’re tired, distracted or have been on the road for too long.

Lane-keeping technology uses a camera to help you stay in the right lane. If you find yourself straying out of lane, some cars will gently steer you back into the right position. This is known as Lane Keep.

Another type of lane-keeping technology is lane-departure warning. This won’t steer the car for you, but it will give you a visual warning if it senses you veering off course. Or it may be that the steering wheel vibrates.

Either way, your car will let you know you’re drifting, helping you avoid an accident.

What are passive safety features?

Passive safety features are those that don’t do anything until they’re needed in an accident. They include both your seat belt and air bags.

Passive safety features won’t prevent a crash, but they’ll help protect you from serious harm if one happens. The great thing about passive safety features is that you don’t have to worry about turning them on. In the event of a crash, they should deploy automatically.

Dual-stage airbags

A dual-stage airbag is one that contains two inflator modules. In an accident, you might find that only one of these bags actually inflates. It depends on how serious the crash is, and how fast you’re travelling.

Head restraints

Head restraints – more commonly known as headrests – are those extra pads that sit above your car seat. The purpose of these is to limit how far your head can move in a crash. This helps prevent you getting whiplash, which is what happens when your head snaps back too quickly.

Frequently asked questions

Are safer cars cheaper to insure?

When deciding how much to charge you for cover, your insurance provider will consider a whole host of factors. These will include your age, where you live, and what type of car you drive.

If your car is known to be a particularly safe model that puts you at lower risk of an accident, you’re likely to be offered more competitive car insurance.

Certainly, safety features can make a big difference to whether or not you’re involved in an accident. And the less likely you are to have an accident, the less likely you are to make a claim. This will help you build your no-claims bonus, which will help to bring down your insurance costs.

What does the future hold for car-safety features?

As technology improves, so too will safety features in cars. One AI feature that could be used to prevent accidents is facial-recognition technology.

Your car will learn to recognise when you’re tired and not paying attention, and will react accordingly. It could be that your car decides you’re too tired to drive, and comes to a stop of its own accord.

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