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What vehicle safety elements and systems help protect children when traveling?

¿Qué elementos y sistemas de seguridad de los vehículos ayudan a proteger a los niños en los desplazamientos?


Providing the highest level of passenger protection is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges and aspirations of car manufacturers. Offering the best safety possible and avoiding the highest possible number of consequences for passengers in the event of a traffic accident. Cars today have many safety systems and features to ensure this protection. In many cases, we are not aware of the important role they play and how they can help prevent consequences. Many of them are currently installed in most cars. Others are still optional and can be installed as an extra feature. Here we list some of these protection elements and systems. 

-Seat belt: one of the most important safety elements. We must remember that seat belts are specially designed for adults. Therefore, children under a height of 135 cm must use an approved child restraint system adapted to his/her size and weight. At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend using a CRS up to the height of 150 cm, at which point a seat belt can be properly fastened. Here we take a look at how the seat belt should be fastened.

-Front seat airbags: the perfect complement to seat belts. The passenger airbag must be deactivated if a rear-facing car seat is placed in the front passenger seat. Here we address when the airbag must be deactivated. 

-Side impact airbags: these usually deploy downwards and do not usually pose a risk. On the contrary, they usually provide greater safety. In any case, we recommend analyzing each vehicle separately and knowing how the airbags deploy, consulting on the possibility of harm to a child traveling with a CRS. In all cases, we remind you that the most recommended position is in the back and on the middle seat and looking backwards for as long as possible.

-Advanced front-seat airbags: these airbags are capable of identifying the severity of an accident, the size of the passenger, whether the passenger is using a seat belt or a child seat, and the position of the seat. There are even systems capable of overruling airbag deployment in the case of young children. 

-Chassis and bodywork: they absorb energy in the event of an impact and deform to minimize risks in the passenger compartment.

-The headrest: especially when the child is using a backless booster seat or when the time has come to no longer use a child restraint system. Here we address when to know the time has come. 

The headrest should be just behind the most prominent part of our head, if possible slightly touching the hair, at the same height, to avoid the well-known whiplash, that is, the top of the headrest should coincide with the top of our head.

We must bear in mind that headrests protect us, above all, in the event of a blow from behind, as the head moves abruptly backwards, but also when there is a very sudden brake, or even a frontal impact. Here our head and body first move forward, and then immediately after they move backwards.

If we can adjust the angle, it must be as close as possible to the back of our head: the less distance the head travels, the less whiplash is caused and the fewer injuries.

- Automatic door lock: when the car starts moving the doors are automatically locked. This way children cannot open the doors from the inside unless the driving allows them to. This warns of accidental opening of doors and of doors opening in the event of a collision.

-Window lock: the driver can lock the electric windows. Children are prevented from opening windows, throwing objects out the vehicle, catching their hands. There are, however, windows that stop if they detect an obstacle in their way.

-Rear-view mirrors, especially the middle one: these allow the driver to supervise the children. This visualization is enhanced by a mirror, which is placed on the rear-facing part of the headrest of the seat where the child seat is positioned. By slightly moving our head we can see the child's face. 

-Opening the trunk from the inside: the trunk can be opened from the inside. This is particularly useful in case someone gets trapped. 

- Isofix: is undoubtedly one of the safest for children. It is a system that contributes to the correct installation of child restraint systems and avoids errors. All you have to do is click the seat onto the two anchors. Remember that not all child seats or cars have this important system. We take a closer look with this infographic.

-Reinforced floor, i-Size seats, top tether anchor i-Size car seats require the vehicle seats to be i-Size as well, as they are larger. It is also required that the vehicle floor is reinforced to support the anti-tipping leg or has a top-tether anchor. Here we talk about car seat anti-rotation systems and how vehicles are adapting to the i-Size regulation. It is therefore important to check if the car seat and vehicle are compatible.

-Light indicating a door is open: it warns us if there is a door that is not properly closed. 

-Front and rear cameras: they are very effective for some of the driving assistance systems that will be discussed below.  They help us to better visualize what is happening in front of and behind the vehicle. They are essential for parking assistance, pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking.

-Active safety systems such as ESP or ABS: they prevent the accident from occurring. These include systems such as Anti-lock Braking System or ABS, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), traction control and tire pressure monitoring. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) would be part of this active safety. 

Consider that if cars were equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), this would avoid 51,000 accidents in Spain or at least significantly reduce their consequences. 

From July 2022, it will be mandatory for new vehicles to be fitted with these important safety features such as autonomous braking systems, lane departure warning, drowsiness and fatigue monitoring and a device that blocks the car's ignition if alcohol has been consumed (alcolock). Currently, only some of these systems are sold as standard and others can be included as extras.

In order to provide users with as much information as possible about these systems and to find out which vehicles already have them, how they work and their advantages and limitations, Fundación MAPFRE and Fundación CEA have created a specific website on driver-assistance systems.

One of the most important aspects of this new website is the comparison option, which provides those who want to buy a car with a list of the ADAS systems included in each model, as well as the final price of the vehicle, making it easier to make a decision based above all on the safety offered by the car, as shown in the report prepared by Fundación MAPFRE on these driving assistance systems.

Among these systems we would like to highlight:

  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), contributing to reducing the number of collisions by 30% and the number of deaths by 20%.
  • Systems for detecting the risk of running over pedestrians and cyclists, capable of alerting the driver in real time or brake automatically, and which can prevent 7,500 collisions on Spanish roads and in Spanish cities.
  • Blind spot detection. 
  • Alcolock,  a locking system that prevents starting the vehicle, based on the driver’s blood alcohol level.
  • Driver fatigue detection system.
  • eCall system: automatic emergency call in the event of an accident with location and information.
  • Lane departure warning system.

Finally, we need to stress the importance of the vehicle's condition. It is no use having the safest vehicle if it is not properly serviced and maintained. We would also like to emphasize the importance of lighting, the braking system and the good condition of the tires.

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