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Road Users

Vehicle safety features

Information and answers to frequently asked questions on safety features in vehicles.

This content is for general information only. It does not, and is not intended to, provide legal or technical advice or to represent a legal interpretation of the matters it addresses.


Frequently asked questions

Choosing a car with safety features not only offers serious protection in the event of a crash, it could prevent the crash altogether. Research from Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety 2016 shows that the risk of fatal injury in the event of a crash is reduced by 66% in cars which have performed well in terms of safety features when tested by the European new car assessment programme (Euro NCAP).

Look for the Euro NCAP rating of the vehicle. The more the stars the better the safety features. Euro NCAP provide a detailed list of vehicles and their respective star ratings.

Yes. It is important to note however that these ratings apply to vehicle makes and models in general over set time periods. They do not take into account factors such as mileage, driving conditions, regular maintenance etc. So, you should always get a used vehicle independently checked by a qualified mechanic before you buy to ensure that all of the safety features are still intact and operating correctly.

Vehicle safety features can be divided into four main categories, Crash Protection, Vehicle Control, Safety Assist and Lighting and Visibility.

Some examples of Crash Protection include;

  • Safety restraints – Three-point seat belts, Isofix child restraint anchors, inflatable rear seat belts, active head restraints
  • Airbags - front airbags, side airbags, knee airbags and curtain airbags
  • Crumple zones - areas of a car which have been designed to absorb the impact during a collision.
  • Roll-over protection – a structure which protects occupants when the vehicle overturns or rolls over.
  • Pre-crash sensor systems – where the vehicle senses a collision and automatically activates safety items such as seat belt sensors, airbags etc.

Some examples of Vehicle Control protection features include;

  • Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) prevents the brakes from locking which would cause the car to skid.
  • Electronic braking systems (EBS) - applies appropriate braking pressure to each wheel to maximize stopping power while keeping the vehicle in control.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC) - uses ABS and traction control to reduce the danger of skidding.
  • Emergency brake assist - assists to stabilise the vehicle when brakes are forcefully applied.
  • Automatic braking - vehicle senses a collision and brakes automatically
  • Trailer stability control (Heavy Commercial Vehicles only) - recognises early signs of dangerous swinging motion and activates the brakes automatically to slow the trailer down and return stability.
  • Roll over warning or stability - vehicle detects a possible rollover and warns driver or automatically starts corrective action.
  • Adaptive cruise control - automatically adjusts the vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead.
  • Hill launch assist - prevents the vehicle from rolling when a hill start is needed.

Some examples of Safety Assist features include;

  • Seat belt reminder – reminds the driver if seat belt is not worn while vehicle is in motion.
  • Speed alert systems – the driver is alerted if they are going over the speed limit or if the gap between them and the vehicle in front is closing too quickly.
  • Tyre pressure monitoring – a dashboard signal which warns driver when the tyre pressure is low.
  • Lane departure warning systems – warns driver if the vehicle is departing from a lane.
  • Driver drowsiness and attention warning systems - systems which detects long periods of driving or driver behaviour associated with drowsiness e.g., veering into the middle of the road and warns the driver.
  • Alcohol or drug ignition interlock – a breath measuring instrument that can prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver's breath alcohol or drug concentration is high.
  • eCall - automatically calls the emergency services in the event of a collision.

Some examples of Lighting & Visibility safety features include;

  • Daytime running lights (DRL’s) – lights which automatically turn on when the vehicle is moving forward. These increase its visibility during the day.
  • Reversing collision avoidance or intelligent parking systems – these sensor systems assist the driver to reverse or park by warning them if another vehicle, pedestrian, or object is nearby.
  • Blind spot monitoring – a sensor which detects other vehicles to the side or rear and notifies the driver.
  • Reversing cameras – provides additional visibility to driver when reversing.
  • High intensity discharge (HID) headlamps – these are lamps which are much brighter and so drivers can see better during times of low light and are equally more visible.
  • Adaptive front lighting systems – where the vehicle’s headlights adapt to suit the road conditions e.g., when turning corners the lights will follow the curve of the road.
  • Emergency stop signal (ESS) – this is a system which causes the hazard lights to flash if the driver suddenly brakes when travelling at speed
  • Night vision enhancement – a system which uses an infrared camera to improve a driver’s vision in darkness or poor weather.
  • Automatic high beam - switches beam from high too low for safer night-time driving