Safety Features

While fuel consumption, comfort and price are important factors when purchasing a vehicle, we recommend that you also consider a vehicle’s safety features as a top priority in making your decision.

Seat belts

Where fitted, it is a legal requirement to wear a safety belt. Wearing a seat belt in a vehicle is the best protection from injury or even death in an accident. Should a collision take place, a seat belt holds you in place in your seat, reducing the risk you have of:

  • striking the interior of the vehicle
  • colliding with other passengers
  • being ejected during impact or emergency braking

Learn more about the different kinds of seat belts and child restraints on our Seat belts page

Seat belt reminders

Most modern cars include a seat belt reminder light for the driver. Some also include a reminder for passengers, when present, activated by a pressure sensor under passenger seats. Some cars will intermittently flash the reminder light and sound the chime until drivers (and sometimes the front passenger, if present) fasten their safety belts.

Anti-Lock Braking Systems

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) use electronic controls to stop your wheels from locking when you press sharply on the brakes. This helps you maintain steering control better, even on rough surfaces and wet pavement, and gives you the advantage of steering around obstacles during emergency braking.

Two other braking systems include:

  •  Advanced emergency braking systems (AEBS): these employ sensors to alert the driver when their vehicle is too close to the vehicle in front and, in certain situations, automatically apply emergency braking to prevent or reduce the consequences of a collision. AEBS will become mandatory for all new buses and trucks from November 2015 and some vehicle manufacturers are also fitting them to passenger cars.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC): this can help you retain control of your vehicle during high-speed turns or on slippery roads by applying the brakes to individual front or rear wheels and/or reducing excess engine power to help correct under-steer or over-steer conditions. Please note, however, that ESC cannot override your vehicle's physical limits. If you push your vehicle’s handling too far, ESC cannot prevent a crash. Like anti-lock brakes, it’s a tool to help you maintain control.

Air Bags

Airbags are inflatable devices that deploy in a fraction of a second during serious collisions, helping to prevent injuries and death, especially in head-on collisions.

  • Front airbags provide additional protection (over and above your seat belt) during severe collisions, when the head and chest of a restrained occupant can move forward and are at risk of striking the steering wheel or dashboard.
  • Side airbags deploy during side impacts and rollovers, and provide buffers between the occupants and the vehicle structure (i.e., doors, windows, roof, etc.).

To be sure you get maximum protection from an airbag system, it is essential to make sure that you always wear your seat belt and maintain adequate distance between yourself and the steering wheel to avoid the risk of making contact with the airbag when it inflates.

Daytime running lights (DRL)

Daytime running lights (DRL) make your vehicle more conspicuous in daylight hours and less likely to be involved in daytime collisions.

DRLs may come in three forms:

  • A vehicle’s dipped headlights may be hardwired to come on automatically when the vehicle’s ignition is switched on.
  • A more common form of DRL involves drivers manually switching on their dipped headlights before starting a journey
  • A more energy efficient alternative is to fit dedicated daytime running lights that come on automatically with your vehicle’s ignition and use a more fuel efficient LED technology

An increasing number of vehicles already on the road have dedicated DRL fitted as standard, and it has become mandatory for the manufacturers of cars and small vans to fit them to any new vehicle model that they have been producing since February 2011 and which was granted type approval in accordance with EC Directive 2008/89/EC. All other new types of road vehicles (including trucks and buses, but excluding motorcycles and agricultural tractors) require them from August 2012 onwards.

In December 2009 the RSA ran a public consultation seeking contributions from road users, interest groups and others who have views, advice and suggestions on the policy options available in relation to Daytime Running Lights details of which are available on our consultations section.

Lane departure warning systems

Lane departure warning (LDW) systems assist drivers by warning them when their vehicle is in danger of leaving its lane unintentionally, mainly due to lack of driver attention. LDW systems become mandatory for all new buses and trucks from November 2015. 

Speed limitation devices

A speed limitation device or speed limiter limits the top speed of a vehicle. They are a statutory requirement throughout the EU for goods vehicles with a design gross vehicle weight (DGVW) exceeding 3.5 tonnes and buses with passenger accommodation for more than 8 passengers. If interested in retrofitting a speed limiter to your car, you should contact the vehicle manufacturer to see if the fitment of a speed limiter would be compatible with your vehicle’s engine management system.

Gear shift indicators

Gear Shift Indicators (GSI’s) advise you when to change gear in a vehicle fitted with a manual gearbox. The vehicle’s engine management system calculates the optimum gear and recommends changes accordingly by continuously monitoring data from sensors fitted to your vehicle, including engine and road speed, and also taking account of road gradient, vehicle load, gear selected and throttle position.

If for example a higher gear and lower engine speed would be more efficient, an arrow symbol and the recommended gear number appears on the info display on your dashboard.

These systems adapt recommendations to suit your current driving situation, thus helping you cut fuel costs, but also enabling you to reduce CO2 emissions and to decrease wear on engine and transmission components.

GSIs will become mandatory for all new passenger cars from November 2014

Tyre pressure monitoring systems

Tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) warn you when a tyre fitted to your vehicle is significantly below its optimum inflation pressure. Maintaining proper tyre inflation pressure is essential for both fuel efficiency and vehicle stability. Under-inflated tyres are also a significant contributory factor in road traffic accidents and can cause up to a 4% increase in fuel consumption and reduce tyre lifespan by 45%. Although you might not notice it, tyres may lose 3-6% of pressure per month.
TPMS will become mandatory for all new passenger cars from November 2014.