What Are the Active and Passive Safety Features in Today’s Vehicles? 

Air bag

Vehicle safety has improved considerably over the past several decades. Owing in part to advances in technology and more effective collection and analysis of crash report data, today’s cars and trucks are safer than ever before. 

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, it is helpful to learn the difference between active and passive safety features and how they help avoid car wrecks and prevent personal injury.

Active Safety Features

Active and passive features are used to achieve the same goal: keep passengers safe. Specifically, active safety features are designed to avoid and prevent accidents from happening at all. 

They include radar, mirrors, and cameras that continuously monitor all around the vehicle at all times and alert the driver of impending danger. Some autonomous safety driving features take over and correct the vehicle when it veers out of the lane or follows too closely. 

Not all vehicles are equipped with all available active safety features. And even in the most well-equipped vehicles, safety features and systems do not work 100 percent of the time. That is why passive safety features are also very important.

Here are some of the most common active safety features available in newer cars, trucks, and vans. 

Automatic braking. As the name suggests, automatic emergency braking detects when traffic has slowed down or stopped and alerts the driver. If the driver fails to act, the system gradually applies the brakes to slow the vehicle down in time.  

Back-up cameras. As of May 2018, federal law requires all new passenger vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds be equipped with rearview monitoring technology. Most often, this means rear-mounted cameras. Back-up cameras help drivers park more safely and detect people and objects behind the vehicle. Some systems alert the driver if the vehicle gets too close to an object. 

Blind-spot assist. Blind-spot assist technology works similarly to rearview monitoring technology, except it senses vehicles, objects, and people in the vehicle’s blind spot. Sensors and/or cameras installed on side mirrors and/or rear bumpers detect items and give the driver a visual or audible warning. 

Driver attention warning. Driver attention alert (DAA) helps reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue or inattentiveness. Typically, this feature engages once the vehicle has reached a speed of around 40 miles per hour. 

DAA uses a sensor to assess if the driver might be drowsy. It evaluates how long the driver has been operating the vehicle and how often the driver makes steering wheel corrections as the vehicle drifts out of the lane. When the driver seems to be nodding off, the system produces a visual and audio alert. 

Lane departure warning. This technology alerts drivers when they drift out of the lane. It detects the markers on the road and makes an audible beep and/or a flashing indicator when any of the tires touch a lane marker. 

Other systems will cause the steering wheel to vibrate when the driver shifts out of the lane. Some lane departure warning systems also help drivers avoid drains and gutters. Typically, this feature will not engage if the turn signal is on. 

Passive Safety Features

Whereas active safety features help drivers and their vehicles avoid car wrecks, passive safety features help mitigate damage when they happen. Passive safety devices and systems engage during collision. Until you have an accident, you may not even realize these passive safety systems are there. 

Consumers might be pleased to know that although there are fewer passive safety options available compared with active safety features, most are available in every new model manufactured, from the most affordable entry-level sedan to the priciest luxury vehicle. 

Some common passive safety features available in most modern vehicles include the following: 

Airbags. Several types of airbags are available to protect the body and reduce serious injuries during a car wreck. 

The federal government made driver and passenger frontal airbags mandatory in new vehicles back in 1999. Newer airbags contain a seat belt sensor and an algorithm to determine when to deploy in a collision, depending on whether the occupant is properly restrained. 

Head-protecting airbags help prevent the head from striking the inside of the vehicle on impact. Side airbags cushion the body and distribute the force of impact so its not concentrated in one area to reduce the chance of severe injury. Side curtain airbags typically activate in a rollover crash and usually cover the occupant’s window to prevent ejection. 

Crumple zones. Crumple zones or crush zones in a vehicle are designed to deform during a collision. Crumple zones consist of various features, many of which are proprietary to specific auto makers. They can be segments that bend in specific areas or metals and other materials that absorb most of the kinetic energy in a collision so that it is not transferred to the human occupant. 

Laminated and tempered glass. Vehicle windows are made of two types of glass, and each has a specific safety purpose. Windshields are made of laminated glass that contains a thin film of polymer to keep it from shattering. On contact with another object, the windshield might splinter or crack, but it can withstand significant impact and resists shattering. 

Other vehicle windows are made up tempered glass, which is more likely to shatter but makes it easier for passengers to be extricated from the vehicle during a crash. This type of glass breaks apart into smaller pieces to prevent deep cuts and lacerations. 

Seat belts. Seat belt use is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in passenger vehicle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of teen and adult passengers who died in vehicle accidents in a single year were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision. 

Every passenger should be properly restrained using the seat belt as intended. Infants and young children should be properly secured in the appropriate type of car seat for their age, height, and weight. 

Car Accident Fatalities Increased in 2020

According to early crash data from the NHTSA, more than 38,000 people died in traffic accidents across the United States in 2020, which is up around seven percent from the year before. 

This sobering statistic begs the question: With so many developments in auto safety, why are fatal car accidents on the rise? NHTSA analyzed crash data and identified three main factors contributing to the increase in deadly car wrecks: failure to wear a seat belt, speeding, and impaired driving. 

Even with Safety Advances, Accidents Can Still Happen

No amount of impressive safety features can prevent a distracted driver or a drunk driver from causing an accident. Although airbags, seat belts, and other safety equipment can help reduce injuries, if a careless driver is going fast enough, the force on impact can still result in catastrophic injuries. 

If you or someone you care about has been seriously hurt in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, consider contacting a reputable car accident lawyer for assistance. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, auto repairs, lost income, and other damages. 

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Clients Injured in Car Accidents

Even with the active and passive safety features of today’s vehicles, car accidents still occur. If you or someone you love was injured in accident, reach out to the experienced Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our legal team will fight to hold liable parties accountable for injuries and damages. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.