Safety Tips for Used Car Buyers
People love cars. How they look, how they feel, and how fast they go. An entire culture has been built up around the automobile. People spend huge amounts of time and energy discussing, maintaining, modifying, racing, and showing off their cars. However one subject that people tend to avoid is car safety features. Even on the lot when people are in the process of making the life-changing decision of purchasing their next car the subject is often forgotten or if brought up then barely gleamed over. Perhaps this is because bringing up a car’s safety features conjures up images of things we simply don’t want to think about. The worst case scenario – the car accident. However it is still important to know what some of the safety features available on the car you are thinking of purchasing. But before you can ask the questions you have to know what the features are.
The most basic safety feature in most vehicles is also one of the most important – the seat belt. The three point seat belt has been standard for road-driven automobiles since the early 1960’s so they are often overlooked when people go to purchase a vehicle. But still today not all positions on all vehicles may have three-point belts, especially in the rear center position of the vehicle. Simple lap belts or “sash” belts may cause the body to slide or jerk respectively, resulting in spinal injuries during even a minor accident. Automatic seatbelts are potentially even more dangerous. They offer less crash protection that standard seatbelts and systems where the slash is attached to the door provide no protection at all in any accident where the door would be flung ajar. Another often overlooked automotive safety feature is the head restraint. Head restraints have shown to reduce injuries to soft tissue located in the neck and back anywhere from 22 percent to 42 percent in a major accident, the discrepancy in numbers being due to the fact that many people in cars do not adjust the head restraint properly when riding or driving, thus lowering the amount of protection that is offered. A much newer feature is the active head restraint, which adjusts itself automatically to the contours of the head and neck of the occupant in the event of a crash.
Airbags become a common safety feature, yet only 1 percent of car buyers polled have said that they were a factor in their car buying process. Airbags have greatly improved over the years, and current models contain sensors that measure the occupant’s size, their position in the seat, and the severity of the car accident to determine the proper amount of deflation needed. Another more recent feature is curtain side airbags. These protect passengers from side impact during collisions, a major oversight from earlier airbag models. And yet again the Mercedes S class led in the development of the newest evolution of the airbag in 2009 – the seat belt airbag. This feature, later integrated into various Ford and Lexus models, spreads the force of the crash over a wider area of the body. This reduces the likelihood of chest injuries. Seat belt air bags also tighten the belt itself which reduce the forward movement of the body as well as injures to the head.
Another safety feature that should be at the top of every car buyer’s list is Electronic Stability Control or ESC. ESC is a computerized system that makes adjustments in tire rotation and break pressure to each individual tire separately depending on the movement of the vehicle. Many ESC systems also reduce the engine’s power in conjunction with these adjustments. This greatly improves control in adverse conditions like snow or rain. Also it attempts to counter balance sudden movements like skidding, swerving, or sudden braking that traditionally can cause someone to lose control of the vehicle. The greatest advantage this has is in preventing rollovers, which are a common hazard of most SUVs as well as many trucks and minivans. ESC was actually developed in the 1990’s and was first featured on yet another Mercedes-Benz S Class vehicle, the W140. In its development the automotive industry took cues from the aircraft industry, which has been using digital “fly-by-wire” systems to make automatic adjustments during flight on military fighter planes beginning with the F-16A Fighting Falcon in the 1970’s. According to US government studies a full one-third of accidents could be prevented if this technology was widespread and it is now required on all US vehicles beginning in the 2012 model year, so if you are in the market for a used car ask specifically about whether or not it has ESC.
Whether you are a family man or a bachelor you should begin to take into account the measures the manufacturer have to protecting the most important thing of all, the lives of yourself and those you care about.