I wouldn’t buy a new car without the following three safety features:
1. Electronic Stability Control (“ESC”). These systems sense loss of control systems before it gets out of hand. By sensing any kind of vehicle slippage to the left or right, they use the vehicle’s antilock brake system components and other existing systems to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle. Researchers including the government and major auto manufacturers predict dramatic reductions in the number of accidents in vehicles equipped with ESC, so much so that this is probably the most important safety innovation since seat belts. And there are plenty of these systems available. Manufacturers have been putting the systems on some cars for over a decade, so even used car purchasers can insist on this feature. I would not buy any vehicle without electronic stability control.
2. Side Curtain Airbags that Activate in Rollover. There are two kinds of side bags and both do a good job. Torso bags protect your body, and side curtain airbags protect your head. These head bags can protect you in side impacts, the kind of crash in which the occupant is closest to the striking vehicle. If a rollover sensor is used, side curtains can also protect people in rollovers by keeping them in the car. You are much safer in a rollover if you stay within the confines of a vehicle. As you could imagine, when your head sticks far out the window, your injury/death risk sky rockets.
3. Seat Belt Pretensioners. These systems snug up the seat belts when an accident is sensed, a great and smart safety feature. Pretensioners are found in many cars manufactured since the late 1990s.and some manufactured before that. They are more widely available for, and more important for, the front seats.
If you have kids, other safety features are important including the availability of LATCH systems and tether anchors to ensure the child seats can be held tight to the vehicle, and rear seat adjustable seat belt D-rings to allow belts to be properly adjusted for kids in booster seats or teens and small adults who are too big for booster seats. Look elsewhere on this website and blog for other information on child safety, an issue we will continue to cover because it is a particular passion of ours.