Safety in Automobiles

Mokarrom Ahamed Badhon, ME (2021-22)

Safety in Automobiles

Safety in automobiles is of paramount importance to protect both the vehicle occupants and other road users. Automotive safety is the study and practice of automotive design, construction, equipment and regulation to minimize the occurrence and consequences of traffic collisions involving motor vehicles. Road traffic safety more broadly includes roadway design.

One of the first formal academic studies into improving motor vehicle safety was by Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory of Buffalo, New York. The main conclusion of their extensive report is the crucial importance of seat belts and padded dashboards.

Key Aspects of Safety in Automobiles

Seat Belts

A seat belt, commonly referred to as a safety belt, is a specialized safety device within an automobile that aims to restrain and protect the driver or passengers from potentially dangerous motion that could occur in the event of a collision or sudden break.

Seat belts reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury in a traffic collision by reducing the force of secondary impacts with interior strike hazards, by keeping occupants positioned correctly for maximum effectiveness of the airbag (if equipped), and by preventing occupants from being ejected from the vehicle in a crash or if the vehicle rolls over.

Seatbelts were invented by English engineer George Cayley, to use on his glider, in the mid-19th century. Ford offered seat belts as an option in 1955. These were not popular, with only 2% of Ford buyers choosing to pay for seatbelts in 1956.


Airbags are safety devices designed to shield individuals from severe injuries in the event of a car crash. They consist of fabric bags that rapidly inflate with gas, triggered by collision-detecting sensors, to create a protective cushioning barrier.

They act as cushions between the occupants and the hard parts of the car, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, or windows. Airbags can also prevent individuals from being thrown out of the vehicle or colliding with other passengers.

Airbags for passenger cars were introduced in the United States in the 1970s. When seat-belt usage rates in the country were quite low compared to modern-day, Ford built experimental cars with airbags in 1971. Allstate operated a fleet of 200 Mercury Monterey's and showed the reliability of airbags as well as their operation in crash testing, which also was promoted by the insurance company in popular magazine advertisements.

Antilock Braking System (ABS)

ABS prevents wheel lockup during heavy braking, helping drivers maintain control of the vehicle and avoid skidding.

Subcategories of Safety in Automobiles

There are many aspects regarding safety in automobiles, including the three mentioned previously. These aspects will be shortly described in the following.

  1. Traction Control and Stability Control: These systems help prevent skidding and loss of control during acceleration or steering maneuvers, especially in slippery conditions.

  2. Side-Impact Protection: Vehicles are equipped with side-impact beams, reinforced doors, and side-impact airbags to protect occupants during side collisions.

  3. Child Safety Features: Child safety seats, booster seats, and childproof locks on doors and windows help protect young passengers.

  4. Backup Cameras: These assist drivers in avoiding collisions with pedestrians and objects when reversing.

  5. Blind Spot Monitoring: Blind spot monitoring systems use sensors to warn drivers when there are vehicles in their blind spots.

  6. Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB): AEB systems can detect an impending collision and automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn't react in time.

  7. Crash Avoidance Systems: These include features like forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic parking assistance, designed to prevent accidents or mitigate their severity.

  8. Roll Stability Control: This system helps prevent rollovers in SUVs and other tall vehicles.

  9. Vehicle Structure and Materials: Strong and lightweight materials, as well as well-engineered vehicle structures, contribute to crash safety.

  10. Safety Ratings and Testing: Organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conduct safety testing and provide safety ratings for vehicles.

  11. Driver Awareness and Training: Driver education and awareness of safe driving practices play a crucial role in preventing accidents.

  12. Maintenance and Servicing: Regular maintenance of the vehicle, including brake checks, tire maintenance, and ensuring all safety systems are operational, is essential for safety.

These safety features and systems work together to minimize the risk of accidents, protect vehicle occupants, and reduce the severity of injuries in the event of a collision. It's important for drivers and passengers to use these safety features correctly and be aware of their vehicle's safety capabilities.