We all love classic and vintage cars. That said, many of them are a little lacking when it comes to basic car safety features. Even seat belts. (Yep, once upon a time, seat belts were strangely missing in most all modes of transport.) So, as you ponder your next purchase—vintage or not—we’ve compiled a list of safety features that you should keep in mind.
Car air bags
Front car air bags have been standard since 1998 and most cars had them before that year. Sensors connected to an onboard computer detect a frontal collision and trigger the bags. Adaptive, or dual-stage, front car air bags started appearing in 2003 and were standard across the board by the 2007 model year. Side air bags (side curtains) are usually available on more luxurious models.
Anti-lock brake systems
Anti-lock brake systems pulse the brakes on and off when the brake pedal is hit hard. This system lets the driver retain steering control while braking.
Safety belt features
Seat belts are the most important safety feature. Adjustable upper anchors and seatbelt pretensioners make safety belt features work even better.
Traction control systems
Traction control systems limit tire spin when starting off in wet or icy conditions. Most traction control systems use the car’s anti-lock brake systems. Some traction control systems work only at low speeds while others work all the time.
Electronic stability control
Taking the traction control a step further, electronic stability control allows the car to avoid sliding or skidding during a turn by using series of computer sensors to detect wheel speed, steering angle, sideways motion and yaw (spin) by limiting engine power to one of more wheels, to pull the car back on course. Electronic stability control became standard equipment on all cars starting in 2012.
Lane departure warning system
The lane departure warning system reminds the driver if his car drives from its lane without using the turn signals. High tech versions of this system can even intervene by using the car’s electronic stability control to prevent you from sideswiping another car.
Adaptive cruise control
The adaptive cruise control system maintains a constant distance between your car and the car in front. Lasers or radar are used to do this.
Car blind-spot warning
The car blind-spot warning system uses radar or cameras to warn that another car is in the lane beside your car, usually hidden by your car’s blind spot.
Mostly used as a parking aid, backup cameras can help you spot a child or a pedestrian hidden in the blind spot right behind your car.
Upcoming car safety features
Besides these systems, certain car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Cadillac are working on car safety systems that will enable you to drive your car both in semi-autonomous and fully automated modes. Obviously, a lot of work is still needed.
Mercedes is also testing for unintentional airbag deployments when driving over curbs, and detection of high-speed merging traffic or sudden braking.
Another key advance is the 2013 BMW i3, which will be equipped with a new traffic jam assistant system that will steer, accelerate and brake the city car up to 25 mph in congestion.