BMW April 2022

South Africa has one of the poorest road safety records in the world – which means that safety features in cars are essential. But did you know that you need the optimal combination of active and passive safety features too?

In order to address the above we need to explain the difference between active and passive safety features. Active safety features are designed to prevent collisions and accidents from happening in the first place. 

Typical active safety features include anti-lock braking systems (generally referred to as ABS), cameras and alert systems such as BLIS – the latter, which was invented by Volvo, stands for Blind Spot Information System. It uses cameras or radars to detect vehicles alongside and offset to the rear of the vehicle. When a car enters the blind spot area, a warning light comes on near the door mirror, giving the driver more time to react – hopefully thereby averting an accident.

In a perfect world, accidents would never happen and then the second category of safety features would never be required. That’s because passive safety features are there to protect the driver and passengers when an accident or collision does occur. The two most well-known passive safety features are the seatbelt and airbags. The former has been around since 1959 when Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin introduced three-point safety belts into the series production PV544. He’s probably the person who has single-handedly saved the most motorists’ lives; it’s estimated that over one million lives have been spared as a result of this important passive safety feature.

The two different forms of safety features – active and passive – frequently work hand in hand. For instance, an active safety feature such as animal detection technology (which works both day and night) will do its level best to help you avoid a kudu while travelling in the Karoo, for example. But, if an accident still happens and you hit an animal, your car’s seatbelts and airbags could well save your life.

So, the next time you’re looking for a new or second-hand car, be sure to double check those active and passive safety features.