Ask an Expert: How do vehicles provide protection in an accident?

by John and Theresa Kightlinger

With more drivers on the road every year and vehicle sales continuing to climb, it’s not
surprising that auto accidents are common. Since 1968 when Congress authorized mandatory features in motor vehicles including seat belts and padded dashboards, auto manufacturers have been setting new safety standards year after year. In 2022, we have advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that are designed to help drivers avoid accidents before they occur. According to a recent Forbes article, in 2020 “ADAS vehicles showed a 27% reduction in bodily injury claim frequency and a 19% reduction in property damage frequency.”
From air bags to ADAS systems, vehicles are designed to keep people safe during an accident.

Mandatory vehicle safety features. To keep drivers safer on the road, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a list of required safety features for vehicles.

Air bags. Air bags provide supplemental protection in the front and sides of a passenger during an auto accident. They work best when used with a seat belt. In a moderate to severe crash, air bags work by sending a signal from the electronic control unit to an inflator. The inflator then starts an ignitor that produces a harmless gas to inflate the bag in less than one-twentieth of a second.

Seat belts. Seat belts were designed to protect a passenger against any harmful movement resulting from an auto accident. Buckling up even protects you from a total ejection from the car. According to the NHTSA, wearing a seat belt in your car can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45%.

Electronic stability control (ESC). The ESC is an automatic system equipped in your car to help
keep you on course when you’re steering. It uses the automatic computer-controlled braking
of each wheel to keep the vehicle in control when it loses traction.

Child restraint systems. In the United States, children younger than the age of 4 must use a child car seat. Children ages 4 through 8 who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall must use a booster seat. Each state has its own laws with slight modifications, but these safety measures help to protect children during auto accidents.

Inside trunk handle. Every passenger vehicle built after 2002 has a release mechanism built
into the trunk. This ensures that a person can safely exit the trunk if they accidentally
get stuck.

Tire pressure monitoring. All vehicles manufactured in 2008 or after are equipped with a tire
pressure monitoring system. This system warns you on your dashboard when your tire
pressure is dangerously low. Many vehicles even include the exact pressure status on each tire.

Modern vehicle safety features. These features are available on some cars to provide added safety on the road.

Lane departure alert and lane assist. Lane assist and departure features work to keep drivers within their lane while driving, and even warn them when they’re crossing the line.

Blind spot detection. Blind spot detection systems monitor a driver’s blind spots with sensors built on the mirrors and rear of the vehicle. When the sensors detect another vehicle, an alert warning is triggered.

Automatic braking. Automatic braking technologies work to automatically push a vehicle’s brakes when the system detects a potential collision. The different types of systems include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, reverse automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking.

Body and rearview cameras. Backing up and parking has become safer and less challenging with body and rearview cameras. This safety feature even uses sensors to prevent rear-end or side collisions.

Shatter-resistant glass. Laminated glass helps keep windshields and side windows intact, helping to avoid serious injuries for passengers.

Adaptive lighting. This headlight system reacts to changing surroundings or traffic. Its system automatically adjusts lights to improve nighttime and low-light visibility.

When you’re in the market for a new vehicle, make sure to do thorough research about the  new vehicle safety features provided to ensure you and your passengers are safe.

This is the reason for all the safety inspections and calibrations needed to ensure all these safety systems are returned to original equipment (OE) standards following an accident.

John and Theresa Kightlinger own My Body Shop at 401 N. Clinton St., Stockbridge.The couple have lived in the area and raised their children here over the past 20 years. John has been in the auto body business since 1985, and Theresa began work at General Motors after high school. Between the two, they have been working on cars for more than 75 years.