Assuming you’re sane, you’re one of the many people who dread the possibility of being caught in a car crash. In 2013, in the UK alone, 23,530 people were in road accidents with some 1,730 estimated to have been killed. The causes for these grim statistics range far and wide but the end result was the same. This article is not concerned with the causes of the crashes but rather on how to tell if a car will protect you should you end up in a collision.
Crash Test Standards
Crash test dummies are often parodied for many reasons in videos but the reality of them is far more interesting. Typically, a crash test dummy doesn’t just resemble a human but actually mimics the anatomy of the human body as closely as it can. The spine in them is made of alternating layers of metal and rubber to simulate stress on the spine during a crash. In the body itself are load and speed sensors that show testers how fast a dummy moves and how much force they absorb during a crash. Designers can get a much clearer picture of how to actually save lives if say the spine breaks due to a faulty seatbelt.
Actual test crash conditions are quite comprehensive. Cars are generally tested with 35mph crashes (to accommodate for the stupid and reckless drivers out there) from the front, side and rear. Some of the more thorough crash test facilities will test other angles subjected to a crash, typically into a concrete barrier. Once they view high speed footage of a crash as well as stress data taken from an array of sensors, changes or outright re-designs of systems can take place. These tests help designers see where the car is most likely to kill an occupant in a particular crash. Several innovations that have resulted from these crash tests are:
- Crumple zones. A similar idea to the concept of ablative armour (armour that ‘chips’ with each impact rather than the user). Parts of the car with these zones will crumple and absorb energy from a crash rather than the occupants.
- Strong occupant compartment. The frame of the car helps keep its shape. Some cars have solid steel frames that are incredibly tough under stress. The tougher these are, the less likely it is for the frame to collapse and kill the occupants.
- Side impact protection. From side mounted airbags to intrusion beams, these features help defend against impacts from the side.
Of course, safety in a car crash should be paramount on your list of needs when choosing a car. Volkswagen and Volvo are reputed as tough cars amongst the public. In truth, modern equivalents of the Ford Mondeo carry that honour as well as the Toyota Hillux. It’s worth remembering that car manufacturers like you to buy their cars and are invested in keeping their products safe as a result.
Get your car serviced
Your cars parts will wear out after time. It’s just the nature of them, not some conspiracy to make you buy more parts. It’s certainly possible for a manufacturer to use cheaper parts that wear out faster but the only difference between a high and low quality part is that one wears out more slowly than the other. So when they do need looking at or changing outright, a service is essential. MyCarNeedsA.com is a quote comparison site that can make that process a lot easier by comparing quotes near to you. A good servicing can add years of use to your car, much more past 100,000 miles. It’s safe to assume that you don’t want your tyres to blow out halfway through a journey on the motorway. So keep the condition of your car at its peak to generally avoid crashes of any kind. Expensive cars are no exception either. Mercedes cars, as nice as they are, still have the laws of physics apply to them. Getting a Mercedes service can be expensive, unless you shop around.
Look out for number one
You can talk about the safety features of cars or the standards performed by crash test facilities for any amount of time. The most important feature of any car is the quality of the driver behind it. A few TV programs showcase the worst drivers in the UK and indeed, their idiocy is the reason insurance premiums remain a challenge to most new drivers. But you aren’t one of them. As a sensible human being who values lives other than your own, you want to minimise risk to yourself and others. Here are some useful tips for just that:
- Never drive when tired. Your reaction times are slower and so is your co-ordination.
- Minimise distractions. Mobile phone? Turn it off. Loud kids in the back seats? Give them a distraction. Cramped? Change your seat position. Can’t focus? A cold drink sharpens you up.
- Pay attention to radio traffic updates. Want a long stressful journey or a short one?
- Give way where appropriate. The Highway Code exists to keep people alive.