When you’re checking out car insurance, you often need to examine the safety and security aspects of your car. Basically, the safer your car, the more likely you can lower the cost of the insurance. But, no matter what type or brand of car you have, there are lots of simple ways you can make your car safer.
- How are safety features improving cars?
- Can I check how safe my current car is?
- How can I make my car and my journey safer?
- What kit, tools and equipment should I keep in my car?
- What essential checks should I carry out before a long journey?
- How to maintain car safety
- What’s wrong with my car?
- Should I think about breakdown cover as part of my car insurance?
How are safety features improving cars?
Modern vehicles are considerably safer due to advancements in technology, integrating both readily available gadgets and sophisticated built-in systems. These innovations include, but are not limited to, GPS tracking, biometric systems such as fingerprint recognition, and a slew of active safety features.
One such feature is autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which can automatically apply the brakes when a potential collision is detected. Another is lane assistance, a system designed to alert the driver when their vehicle begins to move out of its lane and even steer the car back if necessary. These technologies not only increase safety but also enhance the overall driving experience.
According to estimations, the impact of automated driving systems could be enormous. By 2030, they could prevent as many as 47,000 severe accidents and save around 3,900 lives. This significant reduction in accidents and fatalities is largely due to these systems’ ability to eliminate human error, a common cause of accidents.
Despite the promise of cutting-edge tech, some traditional safety measures remain just as crucial today. These include seatbelts, airbags, and well-maintained brakes and tyres, among others. These time-tested methods continue to provide effective protection for both the vehicle and its occupants, highlighting the importance of a balanced approach to car safety, combining the best of the old and new.
Can I check how safe my current car is?
Try New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP). This independent organisation does not concern itself with aesthetic appeal or the latest technological innovations. Instead, it focuses on objectively examining a car’s safety features, construction quality, and performance to determine how well it would protect its occupants in the event of an accident.
Every vehicle subjected to NCAP’s rigorous testing process receives a safety rating ranging from one to five stars. The user-friendly website also has a specific section dedicated to family cars. The highest accolade a vehicle can earn is a five-star rating, which signifies ‘exceptional performance in crash protection and being well-equipped with a broad range of robust crash-avoidance technologies’.
Moreover, the NCAP’s evaluations are not the only indicators of a vehicle’s safety. Regular maintenance, ensuring all safety systems are functioning correctly, and understanding the importance of safe driving habits also play a crucial role in maintaining a vehicle’s safety level.
How can I make my car and my journey safer?
Before embarking on a family trip or even a day’s outing in your car, it’s essential to adequately prepare your vehicle by conducting all necessary checks. Keeping the kids engaged and comfortable reduces their likelihood to quarrel or distract you.
- Ensure your children are seated in car seats that fit them based on their weight and height, not merely their age. Correctly sized car seats provide maximum protection in case of an accident.
- Remove any heavy outerwear before buckling up. Bulky coats can interfere with the car seat’s restraining effectiveness during an accident.
- It’s safer to position children in the car’s rear seats, given that most accidents typically impact the front of a vehicle.
- Always prepare for potential breakdowns before setting out. This preparation could include having a breakdown kit complete with the necessary tools, a flashlight, and a first aid kit.
- Dress appropriately for possible unexpected situations. Everyone in the car should wear suitable clothing that would keep them comfortable if they had to wait outside the vehicle due to a breakdown or an accident.
- Be ready to handle various weather conditions. During winter, you could encounter snow, ice, fog, water, or mud, so both you and your car should be well-prepared to deal with these challenges. This preparation might involve having snow chains for your tyres, using anti-freeze, and ensuring your car’s heating system is working well.
- Always carry sufficient water and snacks, even if you expect a smooth journey. Regular hydration and eating help keep you alert while driving, reducing the risk of accidents.
What kit, tools and equipment should I keep in my car?
During winter months, certain items are particularly useful. Consider storing a shovel in your boot to help if you get stuck in the snow, and keep de-icer and screen wash on hand to maintain clear visibility. A blanket and a thermos filled with a warm beverage can be lifesavers in extremely cold weather.
- Sunglasses aren’t just for the summer. They can be invaluable year-round, especially during winter when the sun sits low in the sky and can obstruct your view while driving.
- Keep a phone charger in your car at all times. A functional phone is crucial during emergencies, and a charger ensures it stays powered.
- Make sure you have a reliable means of navigation. This could be a sat-nav, a GPS system, or even a traditional paper map. These tools can help you find your way if you become lost.
- An emergency car kit is essential. This should include a first aid kit, a torch or flashlight, a hazard warning triangle to alert other drivers in case of a breakdown, a high-visibility vest to keep you safe when outside the vehicle, and a waterproof jacket for inclement weather conditions.
- Sturdy footwear is a good idea, particularly if a breakdown leaves you facing a long walk or if you need to change a tyre in challenging conditions.
- Carry a puncture repair kit for emergency tire repairs. This can serve as a temporary fix, allowing you to drive to the nearest garage for professional repair.
- Review our comprehensive breakdown checklist for a more detailed list of items that could prove useful in various emergency scenarios. Being prepared can often make a significant difference in the event of an unexpected incident.
What essential checks should I carry out before a long journey?
Before hitting the road for a long journey, a series of fundamental checks are required to ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition:
Check your oil levels
Pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, and then check again. The oil should be a transparent golden brown and fall within the markers on the dipstick. If it’s low, fill it up, or if it’s thick and dirty, it’s time for an oil change.
Check your coolant levels
Locate the expansion tank and ensure the coolant is between the minimum and maximum indicators. This prevents your car from overheating, especially during long trips.
Check your brake fluid
The reservoir for this is typically on the driver’s side. Check the level and the colour – it should be golden. If it’s brown, it might need replacing.
Check your screen wash is topped up
Pure water alone can’t effectively remove the grime from your windscreen, so using a proper screen wash is vital.
Check all of your car’s lights
During the winter or in dirty conditions, they may require a good cleaning. Verify that all lights and indicators are functioning correctly, including fog lights.
Check your battery’s health
If you don’t have a voltage meter at home, consider getting it inspected at a garage.
Check your windscreen wipers
They can deteriorate quickly, so look out for signs like streaks or gaps on the windscreen while they’re in use, which could indicate they need replacing.
Check your tyres
Look out for signs of damage like cuts, scratches, or bulges. If you own a pressure pump, you can check your tyre pressure at home (refer to your vehicle handbook, inside the fuel cap cover, or the driver’s door for the correct pressure). If not, most petrol stations provide this facility. Remember, if your car is heavily loaded for a family holiday, you may need to adjust the tyre pressure accordingly.
Remember, these checks can prevent potential mechanical issues, enhancing your safety and the overall driving experience.
How to maintain car safety
The most effective way to ensure your car remains safe and operates efficiently is through regular maintenance and servicing. Although this comes at a cost, it could potentially save you from substantial repair expenses down the line.
During a service appointment, a professional mechanic will thoroughly inspect your car’s mechanical and electrical components. This includes critical systems like the tyres, brakes, and engine among others.
For newer cars, an oil and filter change might suffice, while older vehicles may require more extensive servicing such as new brake pads or other parts replacement. If you drive a diesel car, it’s customary for the mechanic to refill your AdBlue tank, a fluid that aids in reducing harmful emissions.
Most modern vehicles come equipped with a service reminder feature, where an alert will appear on your dashboard when it’s time for your next service. However, if your vehicle lacks this feature or if you’re unsure when your car was last serviced, you can refer to your car’s handbook or service record.
Keeping up with these regular check-ups ensures your vehicle remains in good working condition, extending its lifespan and preserving its safety features.
Remember, consistent car safety isn’t just about preventing breakdowns; it’s also about ensuring that safety systems function as expected when they’re needed the most. A well-maintained vehicle offers better protection to its occupants and potentially mitigates the impact of any unforeseen incidents.
What’s wrong with my car?
Despite all your best efforts to keep your car in top shape, issues can still occur. Here’s a breakdown of some common problems that might affect your vehicle’s safety and performance:
The engine refuses to start
Does the ignition make an odd clicking noise when you turn the key? Is the engine cranking slower than usual, or does it not make a sound at all? More often than not, the culprit is a depleted battery. In such a case, you’ll need to jump-start your vehicle or call a professional breakdown service to help restart it.
A warning light illuminates
Dashboard warning lights illuminate when a sensor detects a problem. The light’s colour usually indicates the severity and nature of the issue. A red warning light signifies an urgent problem that needs immediate attention. It’s best to take your car to a mechanic promptly when this occurs.
There’s an unusual squeaking noise
Hearing a peculiar squeaking sound while driving can indicate a variety of issues, so it’s important to try to pinpoint its source. If the squeaking noise occurs when you accelerate, it could signal a deteriorating cambelt. Squeaky brakes often point towards worn-out brake pads. Screeching sounds, on the other hand, might be a sign of under-inflated tyres.
My car doesn’t move when in gear
For manual transmission vehicles, the car should start moving once you release the clutch. If the engine revs but the car either move very slowly or doesn’t move at all when in gear, this could be a warning sign that your clutch may need replacement.
There’s a fluid leak underneath my car
If you notice a puddle or wet spot under your vehicle and you’re unsure about its source, use a piece of white cardboard and place it underneath. The colour of the leaked fluid can provide clues:
- Clear: This is likely condensation from your air conditioning system, which is normal and doesn’t require attention.
- Light or dark brown: This colour suggests an oil leak, which needs immediate attention.
- Amber or light yellow: This could be brake fluid, a crucial component for safe driving.
- Bright green, pink, or blue: These are common colours for coolant, though it can also come in other shades. If the fluid has a sweet smell, it’s likely coolant, indicating a leak in your cooling system that needs fixing.
Being aware of these common car problems can help you diagnose issues early, preventing further damage and maintaining your vehicle’s safety. Remember, when in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a professional mechanic.
Should I think about breakdown cover as part of my car insurance?
Breakdown cover offers peace of mind by ensuring help is just a phone call away if your car encounters any issues. A trained mechanic will be dispatched to your location to resolve the problem, and if the issue can’t be rectified right there, your car will be towed to a nearby garage.
Depending on your specific cover, the service might also arrange safe transportation for you and your passengers to your destination. You can either buy breakdown cover separately or as part of your car insurance policy.
However, before making a purchase, confirm that you aren’t already receiving this coverage as part of a bank account package or credit card benefit.