With summertime comes one of the quintessential pastimes in the U.S.: the great American road trip! But in the mid- to late-20th century, there were a large number of deadly accidents that tended to occur while Americans were in the midst of their summer driving vacations.
Thankfully, times have changed for the better — and 21st century road trippers are benefitting from the advanced safety features present in their cars, trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles. In fact, since 2005, the nation has experienced a 25-percent decline in highway deaths. The most significant reason? The improved safety of cars on the road.
Here are 10 of the most prominent improvements that will have you living many more summers.
- Three-point seat belts. Remember, buckling yourself in used to only consist of securing a lap belt. Modern safety belts incorporate the shoulder strap to keep you from flying forward into the steering column and limit the chances of whiplash.
- Anti-lock brakes. This is often considered the most important automotive safety advancement since the seat belt. Before anti-lock brakes, you could easily go into an uncontrollable skid on wet roads if your brakes locked up.
- More airbags. When airbags were first introduced, only the front of the driver was protected. Now, many vehicles include airbags for front seat passengers as well as side airbags on both sides of the vehicle.
- Better airbags. Did you know that the original driver’s airbags were built only to help people who didn’t wear their seat belt in high-speed crashes? Today’s airbags provide more comprehensive protection for collisions at any speed.
- Puncture-resistant tires. On those highway road trips of old, blowouts (and their resulting accidents) were a serious problem. But with today’s puncture-resistant tires, you’re far less likely to experience sudden tire failure at high speeds.
- Crushable steering columns. In the “old” days, broken ribs or internal injuries caused by an immovable steering wheel were not uncommon. Nowadays, the steering columns are made to collapse in a major collision, which reduces the chances of serious injuries to the torso.
- Crumple zones. Automotive engineers put a lot of thought and research into building a better car exterior. Their efforts yielded “crumple zones,” which cause the body and engine compartment of your car to absorb most of the impact in a crash instead of transferring that powerful force to the driver’s body.
- Safety cages. While safety cages have been an integral part of race cars for decades, the practice of implementing this idea in regular passenger cars is relatively new. Thankfully, modern safety cages can help protect a driver’s head and upper body in the case of a rollover accident or other serious collision.
- Lane departure warnings. Drowsy and distracted driving are two major causes of auto accidents. New cars are now equipped with an audible warning system which is triggered if a driver starts to veer out of his or her lane.
- Interior ergonomics. Most drivers take for granted that they can quickly and easily reach a control on their dash or steering wheel. But in the cars in years gone by, that really wasn’t the case — and it led to a substantial number of accidents.
Of course, some things haven’t changed over the years regarding road trips. It’s still important to make sure your car is in tip-top condition before hitting the open road. Because even the most space-age safety technology won’t help road trippers whose vehicle gets into an accident because of mechanical failure. In that case, make sure you have the best auto insurance possible.