Last Night a Beemer Saved My Life: Most Important Safety Features in a Car
Recently, a BMW owner reported being in a serious auto accident. Photos of the accident showed complete destruction of the front of the 3 Series E90, with serious damage to the driverís side as well. The fact that the owner was able to walk away from the wreckage was nothing short of a miracle.
Modern safety features played a key role in the survivability of the crash. Consumers hear a lot about air bags and anti-lock brakes, but what is it really that makes a car safe? There are parts we donít think about that can play small but significant role, such as a K&N cold air intake; then there are other parts which are worth discussing at large.
No, this isnít something you need to be a Jedi to do. Itís the way the force, or energy, of an impact from a collision travels through the vehicle. Cars built with force-channeling frame structures absorb as much of the force of the crash as possible to protect the passenger compartment. Force can also be channeled around the passenger compartment and away from the occupants for additional safety.
BMW has been a leading auto manufacturer in car safety for over a decade, incorporating force-channeling technology in the construction of its various models. This is not surprising considering the cars were originally designed to travel up to 150 miles per hour on Germanyís Autobahn. As the demand for increased safety in cars continues to rise, look for force channeling to become a more widely talked about car safety feature.
Crumple zones are a big part of force channeling. They are the parts of the car designed to crumple like a piece of paper, which helps absorb the force of an impact. During a collision, when glass is shattering and parts of the car are breaking, all that requires energy to occur. All the energy thatís busy destroying the outside of your car is energy thatís not busy destroying you.
In 1959, Mercedes-Benz was the first carmaker to incorporate crumple zones; score another point for Germany engineering. Now, all late model cars have crumple zones, ready to sacrifice themselves to help keep occupants safe.
Even though the basic construction of a car is one of its most important safety features, the good olí seat belt is still extremely important as well. Seat belt technology has come a long way from those first lap belts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 75,000 lives were saved by seat belts between 2004 and 2008.
Seat belt technology continues to improve with features such as pretensioners and load limiters. Pretensioners are what keep you from jerking forward during a crash. They also help prevent passengers from slipping under the seat belt, a phenomenon known as ďsubmarining.Ē Load limiters help reduce seat belt-inflicted injuries and can actually be fairly low-tech. A simple loop in the seat belt webbing is designed to rip open under a specific amount of force. This absorbs force that would otherwise be absorbed by you.
Airbags are another longtime standard safety feature thatís come a long way. Airbags have been around for over 30 years, yet they are still being constantly updated and improved. What started out as just one driverís-side airbag has grown into a collection of as many as eight airbags positioned in various locations inside a single vehicle. Airbags include side-impact and side-curtain designs, and incorporate technology that adjusts inflation force depending on the severity of the collision.
There are also new developments in airbags being used in conjunction with or in ways similar to seat belts. Much like roller coaster restraints and five-point racing harnesses, airbags are being designed that deploy around the head, neck and shoulders of passengers in order to prevent whiplash. Ford has recently developed inflatable seatbelts, which are quickly becoming a trend among other automakers as well.
The new airbag technology doesnít stop there. Because up to 12 percent of traffic fatalities involve pedestrians, Volvo has designed an external pedestrian airbag. This airbag deploys from the windshield wiper recess, creating a four-inch space that allows the carís hood to cushion the impact on a pedestrian.
There are also a wide range of other safety features ranging from electronically-controlled anti-lock brakes to traction control and beyond. But thereís no safety technology on the planet that can replace simply watching where youíre going and paying attention to the road.
About the Author
: Mindy Kerr is an auto safety enthusiast. When sheís not writing about auto safety, she likes to work on cars with her family and visits partsgeek.com