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What Is the Difference between Active and Passive Vehicle Safety Features?

Towson Car Accident Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Help to Hold At-Fault Drivers Accountable.

Vehicle safety has become very important to car buyers and manufacturers alike. Current production vehicles are equipped with standard passive safety features that help to minimize the effects of car accidents. In addition, technology is making it possible to implement active safety systems that help to prevent accidents and personal injury.

There are approximately six million vehicular accidents on roadways in the United States every year. Those accidents claim about 90 lives every day and between 35,000 and 40,000 annually. But with active and passive safety systems continually improving, driving never has been safer on the nation’s roadways.

How Active and Passive Systems Differ

Active and passive vehicle safety systems both save lives. However, each is designed to do different things. Therefore, they save lives in very different ways.

An active system prevents accidents from happening. A passive system minimizes the effects of an accident. Both systems have proven records of success. That makes it important to have both systems working properly.

But even with active and passive systems in place and working properly, accidents happen. This discussion explains how the various systems try to protect passengers and prevent accidents.

Passive Systems Came First

A passive safety system only works when a collision, rollover, or other vehicle upset occurs. Seat belts are a great example of a passive safety system. The lap and shoulder harness helps to keep you and any passengers wearing seat belts secured to your seats. That restraint helps to stop people from getting thrown from cars or flung forward or to the sides during a violent collision.

Virtually all states have laws that require you to wear a seat belt while traveling in a vehicle. That seat belt is the first mandated safety feature in any vehicle.

About 60 years ago, seat belts were not mandated by the federal government. Seat belts were included as standard equipment only on relatively few new cars. And the ones that were included usually only had a simple lap restraint.

The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard in 1968 required automakers to include seat belts as standard equipment on all new vehicles. The only passenger vehicles that did not need them were buses and others that had very tall seatbacks that protect passengers.

Now, all private passenger vehicles come with three-point seat belts that have lap and shoulder harnesses. Seat belts continued to evolve with self-tensioning systems that tighten and hold you in place during a collision.

Other Types of Passive Safety Systems

Other passive safety equipment includes headrests and airbags. Headrests prevent passengers from suffering broken necks when rear-ended by another vehicle.

If you are a fan of the early Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, or just about any muscle car of the 1960s and 1970s, you likely notice the seats rise to about the top of the shoulder area. There were no headrests.

The relatively low backsides enabled the heads of drivers and passengers to violently snap backward when rear-ended by another vehicle. That fast and violent snapping motion resulted in broken necks and fatalities in many instances.

The federal government since has mandated headrests in all vehicles. That stops the neck-breaking impact of rear-end collisions.

Airbags also have become widely used and protect adults against head and chest injuries that commonly occur in collisions. Airbags can be placed in the steering wheel and the front dash. They also can be placed on the sides, overhead, and in the back of passenger seats.

Airbags are potentially dangerous for small children or people who might be prone to injury by their sudden deployment. Therefore, vehicles come with disabling devices that prevent some airbags from deploying and possibly causing unintended injury instead of protecting passengers.

Crumple zones are another passive safety feature that helps to reduce injuries during accidents. Crumple zones are specially designed to deform and absorb the energy produced by vehicular collisions.

The passenger cabin is more rigid and resists damage. Therefore, the crumple zones will compact and absorb the energy produced by a collision in the front, side, or rear of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, the passenger cabin acts more like a safe room that is harder to penetrate. It also helps to keep the rooftop intact during rollovers instead of deforming and crushing down on the passengers inside.

Active Systems Proactively Prevent Accidents

Active safety systems deploy before a collision occurs and can help to prevent accidents from happening. Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are the first widely used active safety systems on vehicles.

Anti-lock brakes make it impossible to slam on the brakes and cause the vehicle to skid out of control. Instead, the ABS system prevents total lockup and enables the wheels to continue rolling just enough to maintain traction. Instead of causing the tires to lose traction while the brakes lock onto the wheels, the ABS system helps to maintain traction so that you can come to a controlled stop.

Another commonly used early form of active safety systems is the electronic stability control system. That system measures the inputs on the suspension and wheels.

If the system detects a wheel starting to spin out from a loss of traction, it will apply that brake to slow it down. If the system detects the suspension lowering too much, it can adjust the dampening system to compensate and prevent a loss of control.

New Wave of Active Safety Systems

Many technologies are being adapted to active safety systems on vehicles. They include sonar, radar, and video tracking that locate other vehicles and objects. If a potential danger arises, the active systems help to prevent an accident.

Adaptive cruise control with automated braking is a great example. The vehicle monitors any vehicles ahead of yours and adjusts the speed to prevent your vehicle from following too closely. If the vehicle in front suddenly stops, the automated braking will bring your vehicle to a stop as well.

Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and even tire pressure monitoring are other examples of the new wave of active safety systems now in use to help prevent accidents. However, they do not negate liability if an accident occurs.

Towson Car Accident Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Help to Hold At-Fault Drivers Accountable

Even with advanced safety systems in modern vehicles, accidents still occur. If you were injured in a car accident, the experienced Towson car accident lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, can help you to build a strong case against a negligent driver. We will be your advocate to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.

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