Picking the right car is vital, in every single way you can think of. While safety restrictions are tighter than they’ve ever been before, that’s not to say that you can pick any car and it will suit you down to the ground, even picking the wrong car can cause you a spate of headaches. But, of course, this will be largely dependent on your lifestyle. Whether you need to pick a safe car for the purposes of looking after your family, or you’re trying to navigate the fine line between stylish and safety, you need to know the fundamentals first before doing any car window shopping.
Depending on where you are in the world, there are various car safety organizations. To use the Australian examples, there are two, the ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) and the UCSR (Used Car Safety Ratings) reports. Each one is based on a rating of one to five stars, five being the highest. The ANCAP ratings are based on information from tests that have been performed in a crash test lab; the UCSR ratings are gathered from data of real-world crashes, and you can find both of these online. The best place to go is on howsafeisyourcar.au for safety feature specifications. When you’re looking for a car, regardless of whether it’s new or used, you need to think of the safety features that are available for your ideal vehicle. The more stars, the better!
When it comes to looking at the ideal safety features, every car has various combinations of features that will have an impact on how safe your ideal car is. The safety features will tend to be grouped into three different categories:
- Crash avoidance – these features will include things like ESC and ABS (more on these later).
- Crash protection – the features such as airbags, seatbelts and so on.
- Driver comfort – these features include seat height adjustment and anything else that makes the driving experience a more pleasurable one.
In picking the safest car, does size matter? It’s very common for buyers to look for a large car because it’s something ingrained in us, the bigger the car, the more protection we have from outside force, right? Well, not necessarily. People may think that the older ones were the best, that the classic large cars from 70-plus years ago were better because they were built like tanks! But if you compared these older large vehicles to the smaller ones around today, the smaller counterpart would fare better in a crash scenario. Why? Because of the safety features. The modern small car is equipped with comprehensive safety features, and as every year has gone by, the technology has improved, and the cars are getting safer and safer, this is due to certain safety features becoming mandatory. From the 2012 model year, ESC became compulsory. ESC, which stands for Electronic Stability Control, has become one of the key tools in reducing fatalities on the road. ESC reduces the engine power automatically and depending on the system fitted in the car, it is capable of operating the car’s brakes if it can detect that the car is about lose control because of the driver’s efforts. In fact, ESC has been shown in independent studies to potentially reduce road accidents by a third!
When choosing the size of your car, it’s important to remember that something that can be confusing is that there is a “one size fits all” approach to car ratings. So if you’re looking at an SUV and a Mini Metro, and they both have the same safety rating, they’re not actually as safe as each other. Each independent safety test result concerns quite a wide range of sizes, and in cars alone, there are five categories; mini, small, midsize, large, and very large. Looking at each size, it’s important to maintain this perspective. That’s not to say that there is one size that’s the safest. In fact, your chances of an accident are quite small regardless of how big or small your car is. But you will need to look at what will give you piece of mind. So, even with a limited budget, you can get a small car with good mileage as well as a high safety rating.
Each size of car has benefitted from safety improvements, and so, when you are picking a size of a vehicle, there is the question of physics. A larger car will fare better against a smaller one. But every carmaker has installed airbags and improved the roofs of trucks and SUVs, which were quite weak and were considered to be insufficient when it came to protecting people in a crash. The improvements of active safety technology include ABS, or Automatic Braking Systems, which is where the car has a variety of sensors to detect a potential collision. Every ABS system varies from model to model, but as a rule, the driver will be audibly alerted, and if no action is taken, the car will automatically apply the brakes. This will depend on how fast you’re driving, but it has seen to be most effective in lower speeds.
It’s important to remember that fatalities have decreased across the board in every size of vehicle. The data from the IIHS has shown that between 2005 and 2015 that deaths per million registered vehicles decreased in every size of car. 56 percent for the mini-car category, 57 percent in the “small” category, 46 percent in mid-size, and 28 percent in large vehicles. The larger vehicles on the market, like the Subaru Outback, have had decent feedback on its safety features. As you look for a car that suits your personal needs, striking that balance between comfort and safety can be achieved. In going for an SUV, you will fare better in an accident, but purely because the car is larger. Be sure to operate within your budget, which brings us onto whether to go for a new or used vehicle…
It’s not necessarily true that newer cars are safer than older ones. Many used cars still rate highly when it comes to safety. The thing to bear in mind when you’re looking for a used car is if they are fitted with the safety tech already. While it would be better to purchase a newer car, purely because you know that it hasn’t been involved in any accidents, as long as you know what you need to drive safely, the used option is perfectly suitable. And the big safety features to look out for, apart from the aforementioned ABS and ESC are as follows:
EBD – Electronic Brake-Force Distribution will distribute the brake force between the four wheels, which helps to minimize the stopping distance.
Speed-limiting – As part of cruise control, most cars now have a speed-limiting feature preventing you driving faster than a speed you have pre-set. But in the case of an emergency, the driver can override it by flooring the accelerator.
Lane Keeping Tech – A great tool for long journeys. The car will audibly inform you if you are straying too close to the edge of your lane on a motorway/freeway journey. If you’d prefer, the car can send a warning via haptic feedback, for example, the steering wheel will vibrate.
Smart seatbelts – It’s amazing that not wearing a seat belt is still one of the main culprits of an accident nowadays. The most sophisticated systems will detect the seats that are occupied and alert the driver.
There are plenty of other features on modern cars, but if you have a grasp of the basics, you can make an informed decision on what you will class as a safe vehicle. But if you’re looking for style too, amazingly, color has an impact on causing accidents! A study conducted by Monash University Accident Research Center showed that white cars had the lowest crash risk, no matter the condition of light. Black cars, perhaps unsurprisingly, came top of the list. So, if you are thinking about style as well as substance, picking a lighter color could save your life!
While there are a million ways options for safe vehicles, it isn’t a replacement for how you drive. Human performance and behavior are the contributory factors to over 90 percent of crashes according to the NHTSA. If you are a new driver and looking for your ideal vehicle, or you’ve got a young family, and you need to transport them from A to B, safety should be the primary concern. And it isn’t for a lot of drivers. New drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash within the first twelve months of driving, and families are feeling the financial pinch and will need to go for a car that’s cheaper, compromising their safety. Whatever your personal situation, you shouldn’t neglect the safety of your desired car. While tech has improved and cars are safer across the board, it is down to you to drive sensibly and take the appropriate precautions, and no amount of technology or gadgets can replace that.