For generations, the automobile’s only real safety equipment were the brakes. Cars were enormous inflexible boats made of steel with bench seats and not much else. But since the seat belt was first introduced as a standard feature in the late 1950s, both manufacturers and consumers have been taking a larger interest in the safety features of the automobile. Consumers are interested in buying the safest vehicle on the market – whether for real or perceived qualities. Crash testing and accident reports have become a major selling point for automobiles.
If you’re in the market for a new car, truck, minivan, or SUV, it’s important to be familiar with the common safety devices that come with vehicles today, and how they work. By knowing what features are offered and how they work, you can be a more responsible consumer and be able to ask the questions which can ultimately affect the quality of car you purchase.
The Seat Belt
Although the first seat belt was patented in 1885, it wasn’t until 1949 that the first American automobile company began offering it as an option for their vehicles. Swedish car manufacturers Saab and Volvo were the first to offer a quality restraining device standard on their vehicles, in 1958 and 1959 respectively.
Seat belts are in many way the golden standard in auto safety. They hold the passenger in place, preventing secondary impacts and collisions. Perhaps even more importantly, they prevent the passenger from being ejected. Ejections almost always end in fatalities, so preventing them is important to reducing automobile deaths.
The airbag is an flexible bag meant to inflate quickly upon a collision with the intent of cushioning passengers from hitting objects in the car, such as the steering wheel or the windshield. Although the airbag was invented in the early 1950s, it did not become common equipment until the 1970s, when General Motors began including it on some of its vehicles.
In recent years, airbags have become more advanced, with many upper-tier vehicles coming with curtain airbags, airbags which surround much of the interior to prevent blunt injury. Airbags are not meant to replace seat belts and should only be used in conjunction with other devices.
The Crumple Zone
The crumple zone is a structural feature that has become standard on vehicles in which the front of the vehicle compresses to absorb some of the impact of a collision, protecting the passengers from the full force. It is commonly said that the car sacrifices itself to spare the passengers. The crumple zone was first utilized by Mercedes Benz in the 1950s.
If you’d like to learn more about car safety, visit the Wisconsin car accident lawyers of Habush, Habush & Rottier, S.C.