Car safety

From Academic Kids

Car safety is the avoidance of car accidents or the minimization of harmful effects of accidents, in particular as pertaining to human life and health. Special safety features have been built into cars for years, some for the safety of car's occupants only, some for the safety of others.

Every year tens of thousands of people are killed in road accidents [1] ( Major factors in accidents include driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (see drunk driving), inattentive driving, driving while fatigued, reckless driving, or encounters with road hazards such as snow, potholes and crossing animals.



Car safety became an issue almost immediately after the invention of the automobile, when Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot crashed his steam-powered "Fardier" against a wall in 1771. The first recorded automobile fatality was Bridget Driscoll on August 17, 1896 in London.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) was established by the United States Congress on October 15, 1966 with automobile safety one of its purposes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was created as an independent organization on April 1, 1967, but was reliant on the DOT for administration and funding. However, in 1975 the organization was made completely independent by the Independent Safety Board Act. The NTSB and its European equivalent, EuroNCAP have issued standard safety tests for all new automobiles.

In June, 2004 the NTSB released new tests designed to test the rollover risk of new cars and SUVs. Only the Mazda RX-8 got a 5-star rating. However, the correllation between official crash test results and road deaths in vehicles is not exact. An alternative method of assessing vehicle safety is to study the road accident statistics on a model-by-model basis.

Despite technological advances, the death toll of car accidents remains high: about 40,000 people die every year in the US. While this number increases annually in line with rising population and increased travel, the rate per capita and per vehicle miles travelled decreases. In 1996 the US has about 2 deaths per 10,000 motor vehicles, comparable to 1.9 in Germany, 2.6 in France, and 1.5 in the UK [2] ( In 1998 there were 3,421 fatal accidents in the UK, the fewest since 1926 [3] (

A much higher number of accidents result in permanent disability.

Pregnant women

When pregnant, women should continue to use seatbelts and airbags properly. A University of Michigan study found that "unrestrained or improperly restrained pregnant woman are 5.7 times more likely to have an adverse fetal outcome than properly restrained pregnant women." [4] ( If seatbelts are not long enough, extensions are available from the car manufacturer or an aftermarket supplier.


Car safety is especially critical for young children, as car safety is generally designed for normal sized adults. Safety features that could save an adult can actually cause more damage to a child than if the feature was not there. It is important to review with others, who may be supervising your child, your rules for car safety. All children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat. This is especially the case if there are airbags in the front seat, as airbags are only designed to protect adults and may injure children.

Child safety locks prevent children from accidentally opening doors from inside the vehicle, even if the door is unlocked. The door, once unlocked, can then be opened only from the outside.


Newborn babies should be put in a car seat until they weigh at least 20 or 22 pounds (10 or 11 kg). These carriers are designed to be placed in the rear seat and face towards the rear with the baby looking towards the back window. Some of these carriers are "Convertibles" which can also be used forward facing for older children. With infants, these should only be used facing the rear. Harness straps should be at or below shoulder level.

A rear-facing infant restraint must never be put in the front seat of a vehicle with a front passenger air bag. A rear-facing infant restraint places an infant's head close to the air bag module, which can cause severe head injuries or death if the air bag deploys. Modern cars include a switch to turn off the airbag system of the passenger seat, in which case a child-supporting seat must be installed.


Toddlers over 1 year old and between 20 and 40 pounds (10 and 20 kg) should be placed in forward facing child seats or convertibles placed in the rear seat. Harness straps should be at or above the child's shoulders.

Young children

Children who weigh less than 80 pounds (40 kg), are younger than 8, or are shorter than 4 ft 9 in (1.4 m) are advised to use belt positioning booster seats which raise them to a level that allows seat belts to work effectively. These seats are forward facing and must be used with both lap and shoulder belts.

Booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belt. Make sure the lap belt fits low and tight across the lap/upper thigh area and the shoulder belt fits snug crossing the chest and shoulder to avoid abdominal injuries

There are two main types of booster seats. If your car's back seat is lower than your child's ears, use a high back booster seat to help protect your child's head and neck. If your car's seat back is higher than your child's ears, you can use a backless booster seat.

Safety features


To make driving safer and prevent accidents from occurring, cars have the following safety features:

Damage control

When an accident occurs, various systems work together to minimize damage to those involved. Much research has been done using crash test dummies to make modern cars safer than ever. Recently, attention has also been given to the cars design regarding the safety of pedestrians in car-pedestrian collisions. Controversial proposals in Europe would require cars sold there to have a minimum/maximum hood height. This has caused automakers to complain that the requirements will restrict their design choices, resulting in ugly cars. Others have pointed out that a notable percentage of pedestrians in these accidents are drunk. From 2006 the use of "bull bars"' (known as "roo bars" in Australia), in fashion on 4x4s and SUVs will be illegal.

  • Seatbelts (or safety belts) keep a person from being thrown forward or ejected from the vehicle.
  • Airbags
    • Front airbags inflate in a medium speed head on collisions to cushion the blow of a head on the dashboard or steering wheel.
    • Side airbags inflate in a side (T-bone) collision to cusion the torso
    • Curtain airbags protect the heads of passengers in a side collision
  • Crumple zones absorb the energy of an impact when the car hits something
  • Cage construction is designed to protect vehicle occupants. Some racing vehicles have a tubular roll cage
  • Reinforced side door structural members
  • Fuel pump shutoff devices turn off gas flow in the event of a collision for the purpose of preventing gasoline fires.

See also

External links


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