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Top Safety Factors to Consider When Buying a Car

A recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) found that only 32 percent of car buyers in B.C. named safety as one of their top three considerations when deciding which vehicle to buy, while 48 percent named price and 42 percent named fuel efficiency.

The survey further revealed that most car buyers primarily take standard safety features into consideration, rather than newer cutting edge technologies. When asked which safety features are most important when buying a vehicle, 57 percent said airbags, 23 percent said anti-lock brakes (ABS), 18 percent said brakes in general and 10 percent said various seatbelt features.

When it comes to the key safety features in vehicles that car shoppers should look for, ICBC recommends the following:

  • Warning systems: While only identified as an important feature by two percent of respondents, lane departure and forward crash systems provide audio and visual cues, which may include flashing lights and alarms, informing the driver of potential risks to help avoid a crash. These warning systems are a new developing technology that is available as a standard on many higher-end vehicles but is also now available more broadly as an after-market add-on.
  • Active head restraints: Although surprisingly only identified by one percent of respondents as an important safety feature, a well-designed head restraint adjusted at the proper height reduces injuries by 24 to 44 percent. They also significantly reduce the risk of soft-tissue neck and back injuries during a crash. Some vehicles even come with active head restraints — these automatically adjust to better protect the neck and head in a collision.
  • Anti-lock brakes: Driving on wet, icy or wintery roads is never easy but anti-lock brakes (ABS) can help give you more control by preventing the wheels from locking, allowing you to maintain steering ability and avoid skidding while braking.
  • Electronic stability control (ESC): ESC is mandatory in all 2012 vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2011 and is also available in many used vehicles manufactured since 2006. ESC helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle, especially on slippery roads or in an emergency situation, such as swerving or braking to avoid an obstacle. ESC works by selectively applying the vehicle’s brakes and/or reduces the engine’s power to keep it moving in the driver’s intended direction, preventing loss of control. ESC works best at reducing the risk of a vehicle rollover, particularly with SUVs, some vans and pick-up trucks.
  • Three-point seatbelts: Seatbelts remain the most important safety device in a vehicle and have improved in performance over the years. Seatbelts actually vary in design and effectiveness – look for three-point or harness seatbelts in all positions. Height-adjustable belts ensure the seatbelt fits each passenger correctly. Pretensioners retract the belt to remove excess slack in a crash and reduce the severity of injuries.
  • New airbag technology: Airbags have also evolved and improved over the years, yet only one percent of respondents identified them as an important safety feature. Advanced front airbags have sensors that actually measure the occupant’s size, seat position and crash severity to determine the inflation levels for the driver and passenger — all of which increases safety and reduces injury. Curtain side airbags are also highly-recommended as they protect all passengers from side collisions which can often result in serious injuries or worse. They can also help reduce the chances of ejection during a rollover.

ICBC wants to help drivers make informed decisions about safety features and help them purchase the safest vehicle they can afford. For more information, visit ICBC's website.