Traveling in a vehicle does come with some amount of risk. Some of us either take vehicle safety for granted and ignore the risks while others are not even aware of them. Due to continuous improvements in automobile design and technology, car safety has seen its share of improvements over the decades. Manufacturers have been forced to incorporate these safety improvements into their vehicles thanks to government rules, road safety groups, consumer awareness and the competition.
Smith’s Lawyers has studied the impact of the evolution of car safety over the past 120 years on the vehicles that are being manufactured today. Our findings confirm that we should be grateful to organizations like the RTA, NRMA and RACQ which do the lobbying to make our cars safer. With the result, the vehicles you buy today easily overshadow their predecessors of even three decades ago when it comes to safety.
Most of us would laugh if we called fundamental features such as windscreen wipers and headlamps as safety features. However, headlamps were introduced as an optional feature in 1898 and the first windscreen wipers which were hand operated were introduced in 1903. The introduction of safety glass in 1930 greatly increased the chances of surviving a collision as the glass would shatter instead of breaking up of into large and dangerous pieces. The 1940s saw the use of crash test dummies which allowed scientists to evaluate car safety features in different crash scenarios and recommend them with more confidence to manufacturers.
Car safety improvements saw fast progress in the 1950s and several improvements like airbags, ABS and the seatbelt were introduced during this period. Though it is the best vehicle safety feature even today, the installation and use of the seatbelt was not really enforced by law for another 15 years.
However, it is recognized as the innovation which made the most significant contribution to the safety of vehicle users. The other safety innovations like airbags, crumble zones and ABS were only featured in top of the range European cars at that time.
A more inclusive approach to car safety came in the 1980s when safety features such as the ABS, traction control and airbags found their way into cheaper cars. Australian manufacturers such as Ford and Holden took the lead in car safety and their cars which strictly followed both national and international safety standards got the reputation of being among the safest in the world.
In the recent years, the focus has been on electronic or smart safety features which are designed to not only improve the safety of the vehicle occupants, but also the safety of other road users. Such improvements include blind spot, lane departure and pedestrian proximity warnings. These features have been incorporated by a number of manufacturers into their car models. Due to the increased competition and the increased awareness and focus of buyers on safety, these features have become selling points for the vehicles which have them.
Though the ultimate control and responsibility of the safety of a vehicle and its passengers rests with the driver, manufacturers also have to do their part to make the vehicles they produce more safer with each passing year. The future of improvements in car safety looks good and new features like Google’s self-drive car which takes the driver out of the equation and vehicle to vehicle communication to warn drivers of dangerous situations are around the corner.