Vehicle Safety & Restraint Devices
San Antonio Texas Vehicle Safety Lawyers
Vehicle safety is a significant consideration, both in terms of liability for injuries resulting from automobile accidents, and when the average consumer is shopping for a new car. Every new passenger vehicle must meet federal standards specifying minimum safety levels, but this doesn’t mean all cars are equally safe. There still are important safety differences. Identifying the safest car on the road is impossible, but it is possible to shop for a safer car because some vehicle characteristics are inherently safer than others, and many automakers offer safety features beyond the required minimums.
Vehicle structural design
A vehicle’s structural design is the starting point for protecting you in a serious crash, and minimizing any injury that may result. A good structural design should have a strong occupant compartment, or safety cage, and front and rear ends designed to buckle and bend in serious crashes to absorb crash forces. It is important for these crush zones to keep damage away from the safety cage because, once this cage begins to collapse, the likelihood of injury increases rapidly. If it is effectively designed, a longer crush zone lowers both the likelihood of damage to the occupant compartment and the crash forces inside it. Not all vehicles are equally well designed. Some have crush zones that are too stiff and/or too short and safety cages that aren’t strong enough. These can contribute to the collapse of the occupant compartment in serious crashes.
Vehicle size and weight
The size and weight of a vehicle are important characteristics that influence its safety in a serious crash. The laws of physics dictate that, all else being equal, larger and heavier vehicles are safer than smaller and lighter ones. In relation to their numbers on the road, small cars have more than twice as many occupant deaths each year as large cars. Size and weight are closely related. Large vehicles typically are heavy, and small ones are light. But these two characteristics don’t influence “crashworthiness” the same way. Vehicle size can protect you in both single and two-vehicle collisions because larger vehicles usually have longer crush zones, which help prevent damage to the safety cage and lower the crash forces inside it. Vehicle weight protects you principally in two-vehicle crashes. In a head-on crash, for example, the heavier vehicle drives the lighter one backwards, which decreases forces inside the heavy vehicle and increases forces in the lighter one. All heavy vehicles, even poorly designed ones, offer this advantage in two-vehicle collisions but may not offer good protection in single-vehicle crashes.
Seat belts, airbags, and head restraints all work together with a vehicle’s structure to protect people in serious crashes. Lap/shoulder belts hold you in place, reducing the chance you’ll slam into something hard or get ejected from a crashing vehicle. In frontal crashes (by far the most frequent kind), belts permit you to decelerate with the safety cage as the crush zone buckles and bends. If you aren’t belted, you will continue moving forward until something suddenly stops you often a hard interior surface that can cause injury. Some belts are easier and more comfortable to use than others, so test the belts in a car you are thinking of buying. Choose one with belts that fit.
Airbags and lap/shoulder belts together are very effective, but there are circumstances when inflating airbags have caused serious injuries, even deaths. The risk occurs if you’re on top of, or very close to, an airbag when it first begins to inflate. Using belts correctly and choosing a proper seating position can eliminate serious airbag injury risk without sacrificing the benefits. Drivers should always use belts and sit with the center of the chest at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel. Belted drivers potentially at risk of serious airbag injury are the few sitting very close to the wheel. Airbag injury risk is lower in 1998 and later models because automakers have redesigned most of their airbags using less powerful inflators. Some automakers also have reduced inflation injury risk with dual deployment thresholds.
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