Safety Principles

There are two main routes to improving vehicle safety. Firstly, there is prevention – keeping people, objects and vehicles away from each other and out of harm’s way. This is achieved by combining many hundreds of factors such as driver education, design of pedestrian crossings and requirements for vehicle performance and maintenance. It is this approach that brought about much of the earlier vehicle legislation that addresses lighting, turning indicators and basic demands on components such as windscreens, mirrors and tyres.

As traffic volumes increased, so did the rate of accident and injury. This lead to further requirements and laws for the design of vehicles as well as a rethink (in most countries) of speed limits and road networks. It begun the second stage of safety design – passenger or passive safety.

Nils Bohlin of Volvo invented the modern seat belt in 1959. This was the three point seat belt and made such a difference to crash safety that it was included as a basic requirement to install belts in cars in some of the earliest European legislation – although compulsory use came much later. In effect, this was the first in a long line of developments from Volvo to improve passenger safety; an aspect of design that most other manufacturers cared little for until the 1990s.

Nowadays, safety is considered in many more ways than ever before – from the structural performance of a vehicle in impact to the ability of a driver to see clearly past an A- or B-post. Increasingly, pedestrian impact is also being considered.

Preventive safety is about designing a vehicle that can be easily seen by other road users, a vehicle that is easy to see out of and a vehicle that presents a driver with all the information they require and no more. Good visibility is key to identifying problems quickly and making the correct decision in good time. Poor visibility due to weather leads to dramatic increases in the rates and severity of road accidents.
Energy Transfer and Absorption

Reactive safety is about minimising damage and injury once an accident becomes unavoidable; this means designing structures and devices that absorb the energy of impact rather than transfer it to a person or object in a dangerous and uncontrollable way.
Vehicle Control and Handling

ABS, or anti-locking brakes, are an example of control assistance that aids the safe performance of a vehicle. This and other systems such as traction and stability control can enable safer driving by compensating for limits in human ability. They make a substantial difference when a vehicle is being used to its maximum but can lead to a reliance or complacency by drivers which can in turn negate the safety benefits. Manufacturers recognise that there is a point at which safety features make a driver feel so at ease that their driving deteriorates and becomes more dangerous.

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