Choosing a Safe Family Car

For many, the highest priority in purchasing a vehicle is safety. We tell you which features will help your family stay safe on the road.

car_safety_art Bill Brown

The highest priority in purchasing a family car is safety -- choosing a car that has well-engineered airbags and seat belts and good crash-safety ratings. Agile handling, strong braking, and fine all-weather traction allow a car to maneuver quickly and elude accidents. But there's a lot more you can look for in a vehicle to help your family stay safe on the road.

  • Electronic Stability Control applies individual brakes to all four wheels in order to limit skids and avert rollover -- especially important in taller vehicles.
  • Proper Tire Inflation is vital to well-controlled avoidance maneuvers. Check inflation as often as once a month.
  • Rearview Cameras make it safer to back up a minivan or SUV that has poor rearward visibility.
  • Side-Curtain Airbags, introduced by several carmakers, protect all three rows of seats during a side impact or rollover.
  • Center Rear-Seat Lap Belts are now mandated, and center rear-seat shoulder belts will be required beginning in 2005.
  • ABS Anti-Lock Brakes, which prevent skids, are being made standard across model lines by more manufacturers.
  • GM OnStar System, an in-vehicle information system,
    connects drivers to representatives who can open locked cars, offer roadside assistance, and get emergency help if needed.
  • Buckle Up! Infants up to age 1 and 20 pounds should sit in rear-facing seats; children up to 40 pounds sit in front-facing convertible seats, and kids up to age 8 sit in front-facing booster seats, using the car's seat belt. And adults aren't exempt either!

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    Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the March 2004 issue of Child magazine.