A guide to understanding all the safety features in your vehicles
Every time you get behind the wheel of your car, you are taking a risk. Piloting a ton or more of metal is a dangerous task, after all, not to mention all the other people doing the same around you. Luckily, automakers do their best to minimize this risk by endowing their creations with a variety of car safety devices and systems. These are divided into two separate categories, active and passive safety features. A common query is what is the actual difference, or which is most important in the active vs passive safety features debate. Both types are designed to ensure your survival, but knowing how they do their jobs is important information that can impact your decision when buying a vehicle.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of what vehicle safety devices fall into each category, it is best to explain how active and safety features in a car work.
Passive safety systems are those that engage in the event of accidents or collisions. Until such time as your car collides with something, you will likely never know they are there. However, they do a great deal to mitigate damage, both to the vehicle and to its occupants.
Active vehicle safety devices are a bit different. While they can work to minimize damage, their primary concern is to avoid it altogether. These safety features in vehicles monitor the situation around the car and warn the driver of impending danger; these are designed to prevent accidents as far as possible. In some cases, they can engage automatically, but some require the driver to take an action.
With all the advanced technologies we have available to us today, it is a bit surprising how few passive safety devices our cars have. On the plus side, each passive safety feature listed comes standard on all modern vehicles, whether they be affordable Nissan cars or something as opulent as a Rolls-Royce. These include:
These are all the fancy gadgets that the salesperson at your local dealership will mention to you when showing you around the showroom floor. Usually, you will find that more expensive models, such as luxury car brands, have a long list of active safety features, but most modern cars come with at least a few of the basics.
There are a lot more active safety systems than passive ones, such as cameras that recognize traffic signs, or even some automated parking and driving assistants. Electronic stability control is also included in this list as it helps prevent you from losing control when braking sharply. Most of these systems fall under a safety suite, such as Toyota Safety Sense, which is included in all the latest Toyota models, such as the ever-popular Toyota RAV4. To learn more about these modern safety systems, click here.
Any safety system that reacts to a collision is considered a passive safety feature. They do not warn you beforehand, but they work to minimize damage to the vehicle and save the lives of occupants in the event of a collision.
Seatbelts are the most visible passive safety system in a car. They keep drivers and passengers safely in their seats by tightening and restricting motion when a crash occurs. Any quick movement causes them to tighten automatically so that the risk of being thrown from the vehicle is negated.
Systems that work to avoid accidents entirely are active safety devices. They rely on cameras and radar or sonar to detect obstacles or risks and will generally emit an audible alarm when there is a risk of collision. Some even go so far as to active other systems such as the breaks or take control of the steering wheel to move the car out of harm's way.
The most common active safety system is the back-up camera, which displays an image of what is behind the vehicle on the infotainment screen. Other examples include parking sensors, automated parking assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change alert.