Car safety features can be classified as being either active or passive. Active car safety features reduce the likelihood of a car being involved in an accident whilst passive safety features are those that are designed to protect drivers and passengers from injury should a collision occur. Here we will look at the major passive car safety features.
A rigid passenger cell is a very stiff (non-flexible) structure that encloses the passenger compartment. Generally it is made using high strength steels which are laser welded to ensure that joints do not suffer brittle fracture under impact. The rigid passenger cell of a modern car is surrounded by crumple zones. These are deformable sections that absorb energy following a collision. By increasing the time that it takes for a car occupant to decelerate the energy of impact is reduced substantially.
Seat belts serve two purposes. The first is as a restraint to keep occupants in the car and to prevent them from impacting hard parts of the internal structure of the car, and the second is to redistribute the energy across the wearer’s body and to slow the rate of deceleration.
The main function of airbags is to provide protection following a high speed collision. They are deployed in various parts of the vehicle: in the steering wheel and in the dashboard in front of a front seat passenger, in the side of the vehicle, low down to protect the driver’s knee, and side curtain airbags which are located in the passenger compartment side bar.
The feet and ankles of the driver are particularly susceptible to damage in case of a frontal impact which can cause the pedals to intrude into them. A recent innovation in passenger safety is Pedal Intrusion Prevention systems which ensure that the pedals retract following a collision.
Anti-whiplash head restraints (also known as active head restraints) move upwards and forwards following a collision and so protect the necks of driver and passengers from injury. They are particularly effective in preventing whiplash injury should the car bed struck from behind.
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