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When the first car, the Ford Model T, made its way onto the scene in the early 20th Century, it was an innovative piece of technology that paved the way for a new era of industry. But even though the Model T ushered in an era of change, it was not very safe.
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The first cars had no seat belts or windshield wipers, or even a hard roof. Even though it was not very fast, the Model T was still a bit dangerous. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then, and along the way the industry has focused on safety as well as speed and fuel economy.
Read further to find the 10 car safety gadgets that we all need.
The History of Car Safety Features
The first few decades that cars were available, they were very dangerous. There was not much progress in car safety features in the early 20th Century because the general population and automobile industry as a whole were very resistant to any type of advancement.
The reason the public was so resistant was because of a lack of interest.
The public felt that most new safety features were unnecessary and were given mixed reviews about the benefits of safety features like seat belts.
Every time a safety organization released a report on the benefits of things like seat belts, the automotive industry would release a report that indicated that seat belts themselves were dangerous or just not very effective.
It was not until the 1950’s that attitudes about car safety began to change.
This change was in large part due to the country’s doctors becoming more outspoken about the need for car safety improvements. The doctors regularly saw the horrible effects of poor safety features with car accident victims in their hospitals.
By the mid-1950’s, the auto industry had started making small strides in the area of car safety.
Some of these small improvements included adding padding to areas that the driver’s head might hit in an accident, along with padded dashboards, improved airbags, better door locks, and steering wheels that were better at absorbing force.
Also during this time seat belts became a more available option, though they were still not mandatory.
Due to the tireless efforts of safety advocates like Ralph Nader, Congress eventually launched a full safety investigation into the entire automotive industry in the mid-1960s.
As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Act was created in 1966. Two years after this Act was passed, shoulder harness seat belts were required in all cars.
Today, the new advancements in car safety do not focus so much on preventing injuries in the event of an accident, but preventing the accidents themselves.
Despite the early resistance to car safety, the modern auto industry makes it their main focus.
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The Five Most Common Car Safety Features:
#1 – Seat Belt
The most recognizable car safety feature is the seat belt.
It is hard to believe that, for the first sixty to seventy years cars were around, seat belts were rarely available and often scoffed at. Currently, in the United States, seat belts save around 13,000 lives a year. Because of this, seat belts are required to be worn by adults in all states except New Hampshire.
#2 – Airbag
Probably the second most recognizable car safety feature is the airbag.
Airbags have not been required as long as seat belts–only since 1998–but they are a safety feature that most people think of first.
In a direct front-end car accident, the airbag reduces the risk of death by almost 30 percent. While seat belts are about as effective as they will ever be, advancements are still being made with airbags.
Today, passenger-side airbags are just as common as driver-side airbags, and airbags located on the sides of the car are becoming more and more common.
#3 – Anti-Lock Brakes
Anti-lock brakes do not help in the event of an accident but help to prevent an accident altogether. In slippery conditions, it is dangerous for the car’s braking system to lock up, so the anti-lock brake system pulses and pumps the brakes to keep the car from skidding.
#4 – Safety Glass
Safety glass was first installed on cars in the 1920’s.
Safety glass is another common car safety feature. It is made by placing a plastic film between two sheets of glass. This plastic causes the glass to crack instead of breaking into shards.
#5 – Four-Wheel Drive
Lastly, Four-wheel drive helps to improve the car’s traction on wet road conditions. Four-wheel drive also causes the car’s tires to wear more evenly, which saves in tire replacement costs.
The Five More Modern Car Safety Features:
In addition to the common safety features mentioned above, there are several advancements that now come standard in newer makes and models.
#1 – Emergency Response Systems
Emergency response systems like OnStar are one of these features.
An emergency response system allows the driver to make hands-free phone calls and connects them to emergency personnel in the event of an accident. Originally only available in GM cars, OnStar can now be bought and installed in any car.
#2 – Rear-View Cameras
Rear-view cameras were originally invented for construction vehicles but are now regularly available on larger automobiles like SUVs. In larger vehicles, the basic rear view mirror does not always give a full picture of what is behind the driver. Rear view cameras solve this issue.
#3 – Pre-Crash Collision Systems
Pre-crash collision systems are a newer car safety development.
Pre-crash collision systems use modern radar technology to determine how close the car is to another car and the driving speed.
When the system senses that the driver’s car is too close to another car–depending on the system–it will either sound an alarm or actually cause the brakes to compress, slowing or stopping the car.
#4 – Blind Spot Detection
Blind spot detection is also known as lane change assist technology. The majority of vehicles have a blind spot. This means that the driver cannot always see a car that is beside them when they are trying to change lanes.
With camera and radar technology, a warning light will come on the car’s rear view mirror when it senses a car alongside it.
#5 – Child Safety Seats
Even though most people today may not consider child safety seats to be a modern advancement in car safety, in relation to the history of the car, they are a fairly new development that continues to be improved.
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