If we take a look at the cars that were registered about ten years ago and compare them with those of today, we will see how many safety elements have changed. A key aspect to reduce the accident rate on our roads and ride more calmly.
For many years, the number of drivers killed on the road in Spain was constantly increasing. Some numbers that were translated into thousands of family dramas derived from an event as simple as moving around our country. This figure peaked in 1989, with almost 6,000 deaths. However, from practically the 70s to 2003 that figure was around 4,000 dead, in a trend that had no brake.
However, the statistics show a considerable improvement in the accident rate and especially in the number of deaths on the road, down to just 1,100 victims in this past year 2019. An evolution in which the measures imposed by the General Directorate of Traffic, such such as the introduction of the points license, the mandatory use of seat belts and helmets for motorcyclists or the different changes in speed limits on secondary roads have had a considerable influence.
But even greater has been the influence of the technological advances in safety that have emerged in recent years, with which both the number of accidents and the damage caused by them are reduced. Let’s look at some of the most outstanding advances of this period.
Brakes are one of the key elements in the active safety of any vehicle. A field that changed radically in 2004, with the obligation to include ABS brakes in all vehicles. A system that prevents the wheels from locking up and gives the driver greater control during hard braking.
This system is currently combined with the EBD, or electronic brake distributor, which is responsible for distributing the brake force intelligently to make the process more efficient. As for the near future, the latest developments in this field have to do with the emergency braking system, which is capable of stopping the vehicle by itself in the event of an imminent risk of collision with a vehicle or object.
In parallel to the improvements in the braking systems, current vehicles have different systems that are responsible for reducing the risk of losing control of the car in complex situations.
These traction control systems distribute energy efficiently when taking complex curves and making emergency turns or braking, reducing the risk of vehicle overturning or collisions resulting from loss of control, such as skidding. These systems have been mandatory since 2012 and are integrated with the rest of the security systems to offer comprehensive protection.
The car lights are another element that today has little to do with what they were. Compared to filament or halogen bulbs, today we have discharge headlights and LED headlights to light our way. Something easy to check in any comparison of car lights that falls into our hands, where these technologies stand out for their ability to shine at a greater distance, more safely and without glare.
This new technology also includes advances such as active lights, which focus our way as we turn the wheel, or the cornering function, which provides extra light when cornering. Not forgetting the arrival of laser lights, even better than LEDs, although still very expensive for a product of mass use.
As for passive safety measures, that is, those that protect passengers when an accident occurs, one of the most prominent are the deformable structures with which vehicles are manufactured today. In the past, when we saw a vehicle after a collision, even a serious one, the usual thing was that the structure of the car was still intact or with small deformations. However, today any small collision causes considerable deformation in the vehicle body.
The difference in this behavior saves lives. The rigidity of the structures of old cars meant that the energy of the collision was transferred directly to the user, with dramatic consequences for their physical integrity. Today, the deformation of the bodywork means that much of the energy derived from the collision is dissipated, thus reducing the damage caused to the occupants. An increase in sheet metal repairs that, in return, reduces our injuries.
Airbags are another of the great revolutions in the world of passive safety. These airbags are the best companions of the seatbelt, thus avoiding that in the event of a collision you can hit the passenger compartment of the vehicle. The first to arrive was the passenger airbag, followed by the driver’s airbag. Later came those of the rear seats and the last to arrive are those of the curtain, which unfold along the windows, or those on their knees, which appear under the dashboard.
The result: a set of airbags that spring in the event of a collision and surround us in a soft and safe environment, avoiding blows against the passenger compartment and significantly reducing the injuries suffered by the occupants. A solution so efficient that even brands are already working on exterior airbags, which protect pedestrians in the event of being hit.
We have left until last the active aids that are being implemented in vehicles today and that will give us a lot of play. Among these aids we have the involuntary lane change warnings, which alert us to possible distractions while driving. We also have fatigue detection systems, which “wake us up” when they perceive that we are falling asleep at the wheel, also including reminders when it is time to rest on the road.
But the future of these active aids has a lot to do with the automatic car that is already being tested by companies like Tesla or Google. It is true that we will continue driving for many years, at least the majority of users, but it is also true that all the technology that is being developed in the shelter of these vehicles will gradually be added to conventional vehicles, to protect ourselves even more during our travels.