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MOTORING: How safe is your car?

The five factors to consider

Kampala, Uganda | AGENCIES | For a car to be considered safe for passengers, it must be able to perform well in accident avoidance and maximally protect them in case of accidents; especially collisions and roll-overs. This means the car must have effective driving and collision avoidance technologies; including braking systems, lights, and roof crush strength.

Many countries have agencies to measures vehicle safety against standards. In South Africa, it is the Automobile Association. Generally, it advisable when considering the safety of a car, to check out its crash-test rating done by a reputable agency such as America’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Generally, however, and in addition to those ratings, you can look at three primary factors to determine how safe a car is. These are vehicle weight, vehicle center of gravity, and safety equipment.

Heavier is better

The heavier your vehicle is, the better it will protect you in a collision. Crash-test ratings for a given vehicle are valid when compared to other vehicles of a similar size and weight. In a collision involving a large vehicle and a small vehicle, the large vehicle wins. It is just the laws of physics. But remember that heavier vehicles also tend to consume more fuel.

Newer is better

During the past 20 years, car companies have made significant advancements in vehicle architecture design. From engineering crumple zones and crash-energy dispersion paths to employing high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel in specific areas, new cars are much safer than they were a decade ago. Furthermore, newer vehicles typically include safety features that can help you to avoid an accident in the first place. Vehicle architecture or structure is what lies beneath its exterior skin. Most vehicles use steel for this structure, though other materials, such as aluminum and carbon fiber, may also be employed. These more expensive materials are, naturally, typically found in more expensive vehicles.

Low center of gravity is better

By this point, you must be thinking that if a heavier and newer vehicle is safest, then it must be a big truck or SUV. However, another factor in vehicle safety that you must consider: roll-over resistance, shows that might not be the case. Rollover accidents can happen due to sudden steering inputs, sliding on wet roads or colliding with another vehicle, pavement, or curb. Each of these situations is different, but given equal circumstances, a vehicle with a lower center of gravity is less likely to flip over than a vehicle with a higher center of gravity. That means the taller a vehicle sits off the ground; the more likely it is to roll-over following a loss of control.

Modern vehicles are increasingly equipped with safety technologies that are designed to prevent a collision from occurring in the first place. Stability control is required on all new vehicles, and many vehicles now have a reversing camera.

In addition to these mandated technologies, many automakers are voluntarily pursuing improved safety by offering features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and prevention, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

Beyond the issues discussed above, you need to properly maintain your vehicle for optimum safety. Bald tires, broken lights, dirty windows, and fading brakes can all contribute to increased likelihood for loss of control and a collision.

Choosing proper seating and mirror positions is important, too. If you sit low and reclined, it is hard to see out. Your side mirrors should show just a little bit of your own vehicle for orientation purposes. Otherwise, they ought to be positioned for as wide a view of your blind spots as is possible.

Finally, it should go without saying that driving when you are drunk, high, sleepy, or distracted is a bad idea. Nothing good comes of that.

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