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  • What Are the Differences Between Active and Passive Safety Features?

    Safety Features

    Driving is an inherently dangerous activity. Speeding, bad weather, other drivers, obstacles, and many other situations can all lead to a dangerous or fatal car accident. You put yourself at risk every time you drive. Yet, you may be comfortable in trusting that your vehicle will protect you. With good reason, as many features in modern cars are designed to do exactly that.

    According to a 2018 survey by Consumer Reports, car buyers value advanced safety features when purchasing a vehicle. Over 51 percent of car buyers said having a rearview camera or backup assist was the most important factor when choosing a vehicle, and 45 percent report wanting a blind-spot warning system as well. 

    The safety features car buyers want are also those proven to reduce accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that rearview cameras reduce collisions by 17 percent, and blind-spot warning systems reduce accidents by 14 percent.

    Car manufacturers continually improve, develop, and make standard, new advanced safety features to minimize risk of injury and death in accidents. Vehicle safety features are categorized as active and passive, and both are integral.

    Active Safety Features

    Active safety features are actively engaged when the vehicle is in motion, constantly monitoring various sensors to help the driver maintain control to prevent the risk of a collision. Depending on the particular system, some active safety features automatically engage, when necessary, but some require the driver to utilize them. Common active safety features include:

    • Electronic stability control: These system works by automatically deploying brakes to individual wheels to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle. The electronic stability control helps prevent tires from spinning out when they lose traction with the road and assists the driver during hard-steering maneuvers.
    • Brake assist: There are a few types of brake systems, the most common being anti-lock braking, which reduce the risk of brakes locking into place causing the vehicle to slide uncontrollably. To prevent this, brake-assist technology forces the brakes to pulse rather than one long single braking action. Some vehicles, such as luxury cars, are equipped with automatic braking technology that engages when sensors alert the system of an imminent crash.
    • Backup cameras: Nearly all newer model cars and trucks are equipped with backup assist features that allow the driver to see behind the car when in reverse. A camera in the rear of the vehicle transmits live image to a screen or rearview mirror, providing the driver with a better ability to see the car’s surroundings when reversing. This feature is extremely useful in parking lots, when other cars, pedestrians, children, bicycles, and more are moving around and behind the vehicle. Parking sensors also monitor the rear and sides of vehicles as well, and typically alert with a bell or chime of some sort when a driver is close to an obstacle.
    • Blind spot monitor: All vehicles have blind spots where the driver cannot see another motorist, pedestrian, or obstacle in close proximity to the car. Blind spot monitors alert the driver by engaging lights on the side mirrors, an audible chime, or both.
    • Traction control system: Traction control uses wheel sensors to monitor the traction the vehicles tires have to the road and limits or stops the amount of slipping. Tires that lose traction and begin to spin can cause the driver loss of control over the vehicle, which is a common cause of accidents on wet or freezing roads.
    • Cruise control: Basic electronic cruise control systems allow the driver to lock in a set speed and the system maintains that speed with slight braking or accelerating if necessary. Other types include radar or adaptive cruise control that utilizes sensors to maintain a set distance between the vehicle and the car ahead. These systems will engage automatic slowing of the vehicle to avoid a collision and resume speed when risk has passed.
    • Lane-assist technology: There are several safety features to help drivers stay in the lane. Lane keep and departure monitor camera systems alert the driver if the vehicle drifts away from the lane markings, usually by haptic feedback in the steering wheel. Some models have systems that may correct the trajectory automatically when it registers the car drifting. Lane change assist alerts the driver if making a lane change is dangerous.
    • Driver attention alert: Distracted or drowsy driving are two leading causes of car accidents. Driver attention alert systems work to prevent these scenarios by monitoring steering patterns and sensors that detect steering corrections. Too many corrections may indicate the driver is struggling to stay in the lane and sends a warning suggesting the driver to stop the car and take a break.
    • Safe Exit Assist: To avoid damage to either vehicle, the Safe Exit Assist feature monitors the left and right of the vehicle’s doors and alerts when it senses the door cannot be opened safely.

    Passive Safety Features

    Passive safety features remain passive until needed and become active during accidents to minimize property damage and injuries. They include:

    • Seat belts: The most visible passive safety device is the seat belt. Although created in the late 1800s, seat belt design did little to prevent injury as a locking lap band, and laws requiring all occupants to wear them did not take effect until the late 1900s. Now, three-point seat belts tighten instantly when sensing a wearer’s sudden unusual movement. Today’s seat belts fit better and provide a key safety measure by keeping drivers and passengers in their seats rather than being thrown around the inside or from the car in an accident.
    • Airbags: One of the most vital safety features in any vehicle are the airbags. Using nitrogen gas to inflate, the bags instantly deploy from various regions around each seat when the crash sensors are tripped. The inflatable bags protect the occupants’ heads and upper bodies, and some vehicle models also have side and knee airbags that protect the legs as well. 
    • Safety glass: There are two types of glass in modern cars, and both have significant safety functions. The windshield is made of laminated glass, which sandwiches a thin layer of vinyl between two layers of tempered glass. The layer is used to prevent the glass from exploding either in or out of the car during an accident, preventing injuries from broken glass. This type of strong glass also adds to the car’s structural integrity, lessening the damage in head on collisions and rollovers. The side and rear windows are made of strong tempered glass which shatters into tiny pieces with no sharp edges, virtually eliminating lacerations from glass during a collision.
    • Crumple zones: When vehicles collide and metal absorbs the impact, the force jolts violently through the car and its occupants. To combat this reaction and minimize the force of impact, manufacturers design crumple zones designed to buckle and crumple in a specific, controlled manner, dissipating the force before reaching the interior with passengers.

    Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Aid Clients Injured in Car Crashes

    Despite advanced auto safety features, car accidents still happen. If you have been involved in a car crash with a negligent driver, our experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC are available to help. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.