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Crash Protection Features

Crash protection features provide greater levels of injury protection to drivers and passengers in car crashes, they include:

Crumple zones

Modern cars protect drivers and passengers in frontal, rear and offset crashes by using crumple zones to absorb crash energy. This means that the car absorbs the impact of the crash, not the driver or passengers.

Strong occupant compartment

The cabin of the car should keep its shape in frontal crashes to protect the driver and passenger’s space. The steering column, dashboard, roof pillars, pedals and floor panels should not be pushed excessively inwards, where they are more likely to injure drivers and passengers. Doors should remain closed during a crash and should be able to be opened afterwards to assist in quick rescue, while strong roof pillars can provide extra protection in rollover crashes.

Side impact protection

Increased side door strength, internal padding and better seats can improve protection in side impact crashes. Most new cars have side intrusion beams or other protection within the door structure. Some cars also have padding on the inside door panels.

Increasingly, car manufacturers are installing side airbags that provide protection from severe injury. Head-protecting side airbags, such as curtain airbags, are highly effective in side impact and rollover crashes.

Seat belts

A properly worn seat belt provides good protection but does not always prevent injuries. Three point lap/sash seat belts offer superior protection to two point seat belts and should be installed in all seating positions. Recent improvements to seat belt effectiveness include:

  • webbing clamps that stop more seat belt reeling out as it tightens on the spool
  • pretensioners that pull the seat belt tight before the occupant starts to move
  • load limiters that manage the forces applied to the body in a crash
  • seat belt warning systems to remind you if seat belts have not been fastened.



Australian airbags are designed to supplement the protection provided by seat belts - they are not a substitute. The best protection in frontal crashes is achieved using a properly worn seat belt in combination with an airbag.

Head rests

Head rests are important safety features and should be fitted to all seats - front and back. Head rest position is critical for preventing whiplash in rear impact crashes. Whiplash is caused by the head extending backward from the torso in the initial stage of rear impact, then being thrown forward. To prevent whiplash the head rest should be at least as high as the head's centre of gravity (eye level and higher) and as close to the back of the head as possible. 

Safety features and their capacity for reducing the risk of injury


Diagram and Information courtesy of Folksam Research, 2005 (SWEDEN)