03.What to look for
Not all cars are made equal so it’s important to consider the safety features
available when you’re looking for your next car. Some features will help you to avoid a crash while others will help to protect you in the event of one.
Crash avoidance features
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) detects car instability, oversteering and understeering, and puts the vehicle back on course by braking individual wheels and reducing engine torque. Since ANCAP made ESC a mandatory requirement in 2008 for vehicles to achieve the five-star rating, many manufacturers have since installed this feature as standard to receive the highest safety score. ESC can also be referred to as Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Active Stability Control (ASC) or Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
- Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) prevents the wheels from locking up as brake pressure is applied suddenly – often in an emergency or short stopping distance situation. It allows the driver to steer and gain control of the car without skidding or spinning out of control. ABS works together with ESC to provide greater control of the vehicle and helps to reduce the chance of crashing.
- Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) helps to balance braking forces between the front and rear wheels. It varies the amount of force which is applied to individual brakes, taking into account road conditions, speed, load, and other factors.
- Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) systems detect that brakes have been applied in an emergency, and assist the driver by providing extra force to the brakes improving braking performance.
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems use ESC and sensor technology to detect the speed and distance of objects in the vehicle’s path and automatically brake if the driver does not respond in order to avoid or minimise the severity of an accident.
- Traction control prevents wheel spin and maintains vehicle stability during acceleration, when too much power is applied. It is particularly useful during wet driving conditions, when the road is slippery or when rapid acceleration is required.
- Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) gives drivers an audio and/or visual alert when they exceed the speed limit by a set speed, e.g. 2km/hr or more.
Crash protection features
- Seat belt pre-tensioners tighten up any slack in the belt webbing in the event of a crash. This helps to hold the occupant secure and move them into the optimum crash position.
- Active head restraints are situated on the head rest of the seat and during a rear-end crash move forward and up to automatically decrease the space between the restraint and the occupants head. This reduces the degree to which the head accelerates before making contact with the restraint.
- Seat belt reminders are visual and/or audible warning devices used to alert vehicle occupants that a seat belt is not being worn.
- Three-point seat belts are one single continuous length of webbing that spreads the impact forces more evenly across the passenger’s torso and helps to keep the upper body in place in the event of a collision.
- Airbags are large nylon bags that inflate and deflate rapidly in the event of a severe frontal or side crash. Sensors are fitted at different points of the car and detect when a crash occurs. When the sensors all agree that the airbags should be deployed the system triggers an inflator and ignite unit. The airbags inflate, splitting open the covers on the steering wheel or dash board, causing them to balloon in front of the occupant. As the occupants head strikes the airbag, it starts deflating. Vehicles can come with front, side, head and knee airbags.
- Structural integrity In a crash with a vehicle with sound structural integrity most of the energy will be absorbed and dissipated and the passenger compartment will keep its shape. This is also referred to as crumple zones. Areas that are more likely to injure occupants - like the steering column, dash, roof pillars, pedals, and floor panels - won’t move excessively. The doors will also remain closed during the crash and will be able to be opened afterwards.