How Safe is Your Car? Don’t be a Crash Test Dummy!
They ram a car into a concrete wall. Collide it with a barrier at over 60 kph. They roll it over to test roof safety. Then they take the biggest muscle-flexing monster cars and put them through the paces, often rating them short on safety features.
There is driving a car safely – when you follow all the rules, wear your seat belt, do a shoulder check for the blind spot, and follow speed limits. Then there is driving a safe car, where the makers have painstakingly charted behavior and used the best available technology to make sure that both active safety features and passive safety features. These components kick in at the time of an accident to ensure the occupants are minimally harmed.
Then there are the organizations that test just about every car model in the world for safety, and give each one a rating. Safety remains one of the key ways to assess whether a car is right for you or not. NCAP based in Europe, the US government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) make it their business to test and rate vehicles on safety features. Some of these mandate that manufacturers install certain features and comply with requirements to be awarded a safety rating.
When acquiring a ride, it’s worthwhile to spend some time looking at its safety rating. After all, a lot goes into making your ride safe. Things from active components such as adaptive headlamps, automatic braking, and reverse backup sensors, to passive safety features such as airbags, seatbelts, and tempered glass windshields.
(Tip: When you’re renting a car from us at Carlease, you can check the safety ratings of each model of car in our fleet on our website. The results can sometimes be surprising and counter-intuitive. For instance, in tests conducted by the US-based non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2014, Chevrolet Spark was one of the few tiny cars that got an acceptable rating in the challenging new crash test.)
In the UAE, the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) provides safety standards in modern transport vehicles. They have issued technical regulations for all types of vehicle. GCC countries have adopted the UAE’s draft regulations on the use of electric vehicles. They take into account safety requirements, overall performance, and their adaptation to weather conditions in the region. Here’s what some of the other agencies are all about:
The 5-Star Safety Ratings Program provides consumers with information about crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles beyond what is required by US law. One star is the lowest rating; five stars is the highest. Quite simply, more stars equal safer cars.
The European NCAP recommends that you follow the latest safety rating for the car – not only because newer models may have come in with advanced features but also because the safety standards keep evolving.
“The five-star safety rating system continuously evolves as older technology matures and new innovations become available. This means that tests are updated regularly, new tests are added to the system and star levels adjusted. The year of test is vital for a correct interpretation of the car result. Recently, the inclusion of emerging crash avoidance technology has significantly altered the meaning of the stars,” it says.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a US not-for-profit organization funded by auto insurers. They are majorly interested in reducing the number of accidents on the roads. IIHS tests evaluate two aspects of safety: crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash — and crash avoidance and mitigation — technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity. Vehicles are rated good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.
What the tests don’t cover
- Don’t rely solely on one type of test, say the crash test, to assess your car. A car may be equipped with state-of-the-art anti-skid technology or safety features that prevent accidents.
- Vehicle manufacturers often design their vehicles to ace the tests – this is generally a good thing. But safety needs to be built into the DNA of the car. If you have ever studied only to pass an exam, versus studying to learn something, you will understand this difference.
- Cars are tested within their category. This means that the overall level of safety in a five-star rated small car will be significantly different from a similarly rated tiny car or an SUV.
- Finally, regional safety standards are based on particular driving conditions. For eg, the safest car for driving in the Canadian winter may not be the safest car in the UAE’s summer.
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