Are you or your family in the market for a new set of wheels? Think safety first! As you stroll through the car lot looking at the newest models, or even used vehicles, keep the following list of safety features in mind:
Many different models look similar, but have key differences in their structural design. You will want one that offers a strong compartment for passengers, and front and rear bumpers designed to buckle and bend to absorb the force of a serious crash. Familiarize yourself with crash test results and see how the model of your choice stands up to another maker's model. One good place to start your research is at Crashtest.com (http://www.crashtest.com) which provides vehicle crash test results.
It is a given that any vehicle you consider buying, unless it is really ancient, will have seat belts. Seat belts can be instrumental in protecting your family in the event of a crash. When you are car shopping, here are some of the seat belt features you may want to consider:
- Are the shoulder belts adjustable? It will be more comfortable for you and your passengers if you can change the shoulder strap height.
- Does the rear seat offer shoulder belts? This provides extra safety, especially for children who are riding in booster seats.
- Do the seat belts have energy management features? These features allow the seat belts to "give" a little to prevent too much force on the chest area during a serious crash.
You have probably heard pros and cons about air bags. Just how important are they? Air bags are not beneficial for all passengers. Small children or babies in car seats can be injured or even killed by front seat air bags. You should never put a rear-facing car seat in the front seat of a car with an air bag. Children under the age of 13 should ride only in the rear seats, and that they should be buckled up no matter where they are sitting.
For the practical purposes of choosing a family vehicle, it is unlikely you will choose one without a rear seat. However, your life situation may call for a pickup truck, which may not have a rear seat. If you need to put a car seat in the front of that pickup truck, and it has airbags, then you may request an on-off airbag switch for safety purposes.
Another consideration: the safest position for the driver is 10 inches (25 centimeters) away from the airbag. As you head out on a test drive, slide your seat back to the furthest comfortable point and see if you have 10 inches (25 centimeters) between yourself and the bag. On a related note, some car models offer side airbags that also offer head protection.
You may only think of turning on your running lights when it turns dusk, but some vehicles offer automatic daytime running lights. Having running lights might help other drivers see you better.
Antilock brakes are a common feature on many vehicles. If you buy a car with this feature, be sure you know how to use them properly to avoid accidents. Make sure that all the drivers in your family are familiar with antilock brakes and how to use them.
Car Seat Safety
Some vehicles offer built-in child car seats, but you will need to check the weight and height limits because they vary. If you choose to install a car seat, make sure you find out how to install it properly and learn how to buckle your baby correctly into the seat for maximum security.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 09/14/2011 -