The term car safety in India is often buried under the carpet. We depend on cars to get around everywhere, for commutes, for finding new destinations and a lot of other things. In short, we spend a lot of time in our cars, whether it’s on the front seat or the back seat. Even then, there are a lot of important things with regards to safety that we tend to overlook when we do decide to pick the car of our choice. We at CarWale decided to bring a few things forward to notice.
Ever increasing accident rate
With a huge population like ours, we have more people driving than we have roads. With driving illiteracy existing on a massive scale, the accident rates is on a rise steadily. According to recent surveys, road accidents kill over 300 people a day, now that’s a staggering number. A majority of these accidents, nearly three-fourths, have been termed as fault of the driver, a catch-all term that includes speeding, drunk driving, driving on wrong side of the road and not signaling properly. Now this is even worse when one ends up being a casualty for no fault of his or hers. All the more reason why one needs to pay attention to how really safe one’s car is.
A taste of Global NCAP crash testing
The Indian bread-butter cars were recently subjected to Global NCAP’s crash tests, and not surprisingly they failed it. But what was also seen is that, the presence of airbags significantly reduced mortality rates. According to the ARAI’s procedures, a car needs to be run into a barrier at a speed of 56kph, just like the UN basic safety test. And considering the fact that we drive at these speeds or even higher on a daily basis, collisions like these are highly common on our roads. Now these bread-butter cars may be affordably priced, but that should not allow them to shirk the responsibility of keeping their occupants safe. Which brings us back to the question should we ignore safety features offered as an option?
A life saver called Airbags
Given the rather appalling statistics with regard to people crashing their cars, it seems more and more pertinent to have airbags fitted as standard in vehicles. As the name suggests, it’s a bag that inflates in front of the occupant in a crash. It prevents them from hitting the surface in front of them. It comprises a three part mechanism of a sensor, inflator and the airbag and work in sequence to prevent injuries. It is an effective tool in injury reduction as the whole process of iImpact-inflation-deflation takes places in 1/25 of a second. The most basic form is one or two airbags which are fitted for the driver and co-passenger but nowadays many manufacturers offer up to eight airbags to include safety of those sitting in the second row.
What do airbags protect?
A car crash is as dramatic as it is horrifying. There are bits of glass, body work flying all around and more often than not, the occupants are flung about depending on the speed of the impact. In such a confusing moment, the airbags are meant to inflate and protect the person’s face, neck and the thorax. The additional airbags which many cars carry nowadays also protect the knees and sides of the person. In addition some cars now carry pedestrian airbags, on the bonnet, which inflate if a person is hit by the front of the car.
Of ABS and EBD
We are well aware of the number of distractions present on our roads. Whether it’s an animal crossing or an ignorant jaywalker, one has to be alert at all times. And when that time does come when you have to stomp on the brakes with all you’re might, you suddenly realise that the wheels are locked and you have absolutely no control. It’s a time when you wish your car came with ABS.
How would that help? When you press hard on the normal brake pedal, the disc/drum brakes are engaged and they slow you down. But at the risk of locking up the wheels. This means they do not have any circular movement left and due to the inertia of the car, they will just keep skidding along the road surface. Turning the steering wheel will have no effect as the wheels have very little grip left.
What the ABS does is monitor the wheels under braking. If the system senses that the wheels are about to stop moving, it releases the brake even if you are pressing the brake pedal. When the wheels are moving, you have enough grip on the road so you can turn the steering to give direction to your car.
As for EBD or Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, what the system does is monitor Under under braking, it decides which wheel to brake more and which to brake less depending on many conditions like road friction (less priority) and body weight (higher priority) of the car.
Typically most of the braking force is distributed at the front to as the front is heavier than the rear half of the car. In a few systems, immediately after braking more pressure is applied on rear brakes before the effects of weight transfer become apparent and then the brake force is redistributed.
Standard Safety Features
One of the easiest way to push basic safety features is by offering them as standard equipment. However, it also bumps up the price because of which manufacturers offer them as options. But there are a few who have taken the bold decision.
The VW Polo comes with dual airbags standard while ABS is offered from the Comfortline variant. Maruti have upped the safety game as well and offer dual airbags, pretension seatbelts and ABS as standard on the Baleno. Toyota does the same with the Etios and the Liva. Hyundai has gone a step further. While dual airbags are standard, the top variant of the i20 offers side and curtain airbags as well. ABS, however, is standard from the Sportz variant onwards.
Is it worth paying extra for safety features?
While this might be a very simple decision, a majority of the buyers would rather opt for a better music system over airbags and ABS. What we need to understand is while that music system might provide good entertainment, it is not going to come into play the day a drunk buffoon ploughs into your car. Safety features like airbags and ABS are there to save lives and it have been proved time and again that these features reduce mortality rate by a huge margin. We also think that the government can step in here and offer some kind of subsidy to the manufacturer for providing safety features as standard which can be benefitted by the customer just like for sub-four metre cars and hybrids. In the end, if you ask us if it’s worth or not, it’s definitely a big ‘Yes’ from our side!