Safety features in Indian cars: Do not drive without airbags, seat belts, isofix, parking sensors
Most common are the front airbags that protect the driver and the front passenger in a frontal collision. High-end cars have side and head (curtain) airbags too, that protect the occupants in case of side impacts and rollovers. Of course, airbags are effective only when passengers are buckled up, which brings us to our next point.
For the average Indian car buyer, safety isn’t a priority; most people would happily look past safety features to save some money or avoid a little inconvenience. However, the impending Indian crash test norms, which will legislate many safety features and standards, will help increase awareness and ensure better safety measures for both vehicle and road users. But why wait for legislation? Even now you can be more cautious by simply opting for and using, at a small premium, some basic but important safety kit that are already available in most cars.
Think of them as pillows. In the case of an impact, an airbag promptly inflates and prevents the occupant from striking the harder surfaces inside a car. Most common are the front airbags that protect the driver and the front passenger in a frontal collision. High-end cars have side and head (curtain) airbags too, that protect the occupants in case of side impacts and rollovers. Of course, airbags are effective only when passengers are buckled up, which brings us to our next point.
SEAT BELT PRETENSIONER
It is the most basic of safety features. Sadly though, it only works if you use it, so buckle up! Nearly all airbag- equipped cars today have seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, but there are a few budget cars that skip the pretensioners. So, check before buying. During an impact, the pretensioners further tighten the seat belts and, to prevent dangerously high chest loads, after a short while, the load limiters release you into the inflated airbags.
Isofix is basically a global-standard tethering system for child seats. Rather than using the car‘s seat belts to anchor a child seat into place, Isofix is mounted directly onto the chassis points where an Isofix-standard child seat can fit in. Children must always be in a child seat as the car‘s standard seat belts aren’t designed for their height. To keep your child safe, make sure you use an appropriate seat according to your child‘s height and weight.
They are often called headrests, but they are not to rest your head on! The head restraints prevent your head and neck from snapping backwards in a rear collision, thus preventing ‘whiplash’ injuries to your spine. Make sure you have tall enough or height- adjustable restraints for all passengers as some cars come with only small cushion-like seat extensions. These do not even come up to the base of your head and will not stop it from snapping backwards to prevent an injury.
It may sound odd, but having a safety hammer handy can work wonders in tough situations. If, for instance, the car’s central locking system malfunctions, or after an accident you find yourself trapped in, the hammer could well turn out to be a life saver, enabling you to break the car‘s tough glass. Many hammers available in the market also have seatbelt cutters and even a torch built in. Make sure the hammer is in an easy-to-reach but a secure place in the car, like the glove or central storage box.
An anti-lock braking system (ABS) prevents the wheels from locking up during hard braking. With locked wheels, a car becomes unsteerable and can skid or slide straight into the very thing you were trying to avoid. Sensors monitor individual wheel speeds and modulate the braking force at each wheel to bring the car to a controlled halt. ABS is very handy as the wheels can lock up on wet, gravel and even dry surfaces, and also at low speeds. Thus, make sure you opt for ABS.
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Parking sensors aren’t only about saving your car‘s bumpers. They can also prevent you from hitting someone, especially a child who could be below your line of sight. Parking sensors are mostly at the rear but higher segment cars do offer front and even all-around sensors. The system gives off audio beeps, progressively increasing in intensity as the distance to the object decreases. There are also systems with cameras that give you an actual, outside view. Do remember these sensor and camera systems are only a supplement and you should still maintain a good and careful look all around.
By Jay Patil, DNA