How safe is safe?

Image from the movie Jumanji

Image from the movie Jumanji

Safety has moved far on past the “an elephant could use that car as a trampoline & the people inside would be fine. Why? It’s a Volvo!” thinking. A lot of people have decided that “bigger is safer” for their families, & this has contributed hugely to SUV sales in Australia. But it’s not necessarily the case. So how do you make a decision – a rational one – about which car is a safe option for you?

In Australia, the ‘benchmark’, as you will, is The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), who market themselves as “Australia’s leading independent vehicle safety advocate”.

In a nutshell, ANCAP operates a vehicle safety rating program, where instead of giving five choc tops out to Sharknado as film of the year, they give out a star rating out of five. They also recommend that if a car you’re looking at doesn’t have a five choc-top, sorry, star, rating, you simply shouldn’t buy it. It should be outside of your consideration set.

ANCAP are all about a combination of independent crash testing and safety features (like ABS brakes, seat belt warnings & the like) to determine a car’s rating. To get the 5 star rating, a car has to hit best international standard on every item. There are four crash tests – pedestrian, pole, side impact & frontal impact.

So what is important to look for when you’re looking to shop savvy for your car?

  • Structural integrity and a solid body. You do not want your car doors flipping open in a crash situation.
  • Stability control, which is the car’s electronic brain being capable of reading when (for example you’ve swerved) you’ve lost control and it electronically ‘takes over’ the driving to get you out of a hairy spot. This is extra-important in SUVs, which have a higher centre of gravity. Stability control is called lots of things, depending on the car brand, but it could be ESP, ESC, DSC, ASC or VSC.
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS) which are brilliant at avoiding loss of control from hitting the brakes hard. ABS works hand in hand with other stability control systems to keep you safe and sound.
  • Airbags (look for front, side, curtain & knee bags)
  • Seat belts. Duh. Actually, no, I take that ‘Duh’ back because in 20% of Australia’s road fatalities, seatbelts were safely tucked up in their storage roll instead of strapping someone in safely. And dovetailing neatly into this, child restraints please. Suitable ones.
  • And look out for the ANCAP rating. Five Sharknados please.

There are currently 242 cars in Australia with a five star ANCAP rating, so mosey on over here and see if yours (or one you’re considering) is one of them.

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