Car Safety Equipment For Families: A Look At The Major Milestones From Past to Present
It’s not hard to understand why parents worry about their teens’ safety once they are old enough to hit the road on their own. Driving may be a convenient and reliable form of transportation, but it can also be dangerous.
For decades, car manufacturers have looked for new ways to prevent crashes or keep passengers safe in the event of a collision. A number of new car safety equipment features have been introduced over the years, and although they do not completely eliminate the risk of getting into a crash, they do make the roads safer. Here’s a look at some of the major milestones in the history of car safety equipment–and what new features parents should expect in the future:
Seat Belt Reminder Technology
Beginning in the 1960s, all new passenger vehicles were designed with a seat belt. But, many people failed to actually use their seat belts when traveling by car. In fact, the estimated seat belt use rate was as low as 12-15% in 1972. However, the seat belt use rate started to slowly increase with the introduction of seat belt reminder technology in 1972.
This technology could detect whether or not the people in the vehicle were wearing their seat belt. If someone was not buckled up, a flashing light and beeping sound would go off for about 60 seconds to remind passengers to put on their seat belts. In 1973, the seat belt use rate had jumped to 28% thanks in part to this reminder technology. Now, more than 40 years later, the national seat belt use rate has increased to about 90%.
Collision avoidance systems were designed to detect and prevent imminent car crashes, which is important for teen drivers who may not be experienced enough to recognize danger. The first collision avoidance system was created in 1995 by a team of engineers at Hughes Research Laboratories. However, this system could not be used in vehicles because it relied on radar technology, which was not commercially available yet. In 1997, a similar technology was incorporated into the design of the Toyota Celsior, however it was only available for purchase in Japan.
Today’s collision avoidance systems are more widely available and have many different features. Some are designed with a forward collision warning, which uses sensor technology to detect impending collisions. If a crash is imminent, the system will notify the driver by making a loud, beeping noise. Even if the driver is distracted, the noise should get their attention and refocus it back on the road.
Other systems include blind spot detection, which is designed to ensure drivers are aware of vehicles in their blind spots. If a car moves into the driver’s blind spot, a light will turn on to alert the driver. Teen drivers may forget to check their blind spots when changing lanes, so this feature can be especially useful for these drivers.
Lane departure prevention is another common feature of a collision avoidance system. Sensor technology is used to determine if your vehicle is traveling between the lines of your lane. If your vehicle starts to drift into another lane, the system will alert you by playing a noise, vibrating your seat, or turning a light on in the dashboard. There is no doubt that these features make the roads safer by preventing accidents caused by inattention, visibility issues, or inexperience.
The 1996 Mercedes S-Class and SL-Class vehicles were the first models designed with brake assist (BAS) technology. This technology analyzes the speed and force at which the driver applies the brakes to determine if it is an emergency situation. If the system detects an emergency, it will fully apply the brakes if the driver has not already done so to ensure the vehicle is able to come to a complete stop as quickly as possible.
This safety feature may seem unnecessary–after all, a driver can apply the brakes on his own–but, it’s actually very helpful. Why? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that about 50% of all drivers do not fully utilize their breaks in emergency situations. If a driver makes this mistake, the brake assist safety feature can kick into gear to prevent a tragic crash.
Two years after Mercedes introduced BAS, the manufacturer began to incorporate this safety feature into all of its models. But, teens don’t have to drive Mercedes to have access to this feature. The NHTSA recently came to an agreement with 20 car manufacturers that requires all new vehicles to have a brake assist system by the year 2020. Because of this agreement, it will be much easier for parents to find cars with this feature for their teens.
Moving a vehicle out of a parking spot or garage is one of the hardest driving maneuvers for teen drivers, but the backup camera makes it much easier. The backup camera, which was designed to help drivers safely reverse out of parking spots, was first used in the 2002 Infiniti Q45. In this car, drivers were able to see the road behind them without ever turning their heads thanks to a 7-inch screen in the center console that connected to a small camera hidden inside the trunk. As the driver reversed out of a parking space, they could watch the screen to make sure it was safe to back out. This backup camera also made it easier for drivers to parallel park without hitting other vehicles.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to find a car with this safety feature. In fact, car manufacturers are required to include this feature in all new vehicles as of this year.
Airbags are safety features that inflate in the event of a collision. A law was passed in 1998 that required manufacturers to include frontal airbags in all passenger vehicles. Side airbags, which are located along the sides of the vehicle’s interior, are also found in many newer passenger vehicles, although they are not legally required. Both frontal and side airbags are designed to protect passengers inside the car. But in 2012, Volvo introduced the first exterior airbag that was designed to protect pedestrians, not passengers.
This exterior airbag was designed to inflate whenever it detected a collision so it could cover certain hard areas of the vehicle that could fatally injure pedestrians. This was the first vehicle to include the pedestrian airbag, but it was certainly not the last. Several years later, new Land Rover Discovery models were also designed with this safety feature.
The latest car safety technology has focused on benefiting families, especially those with young teen drivers. In the past, drunk driving was a huge problem–leading to more laws, stricter punishments, and even technology focused around breathalyzers installed in cars.
However, times have changed and the new dangers threatening the lives of everyone on the road has become more apparent: distracted driving. Luckily, technology is moving in a new direction, helping parents and families take control to prevent distractions from taking the wheel.
Phone carriers and companies Apple and AT&T have created technology to help change the habits of drivers. Apple’s iOS 11 comes with a new feature, Do Not Disturb, that makes text messages and phone browsing inactive during driving. AT&T’s Drivemode also silences alerts and other phone notifications. As time goes on, these technologies will only improve. TeenSafe is planning to launch a new driving app in 2018 that will allow parents to have more control of how safe your child is while driving.
Car safety technology has come a long way in just a few decades. It’s safe to say that as time goes on, car safety will continue to advance in new and exciting ways. With that in mind, there may be some growing pains as automated cars traveling in beta risk more accidents and coalitions such as Road to Zero aim to eliminate roadway deaths–both from a technology standpoint and roadway behavior. Hopefully, the car safety technologies of the future will make the roads safer for drivers of all ages.