Call today for a consultation


Legal Blog

What Are the Differences Between Active and Passive Safety Features?

Published: Jun 27, 2022 in Auto Accident, Personal Injury
Vehicle Crash Survivors Trust the St. Clair County Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC to Give Straightforward Advice.

Cars today are made with so many safety features that you might have trouble remembering them all. Even if you purchase a “basic” new vehicle, it will probably include plenty of technology to help you stay safe behind the wheel.

For instance, many vehicles include both active and passive safety features. You may not realize that they can be placed into these two categories, though. Often, salespeople will just talk about all the safety features at once. However, knowing the nuances between these unique types of safety features will help you understand how they work and, when appropriate, when to use them.

What Are Active Safety Features?

“Active safety features” act as warning signs, actively seeking out danger without being activated by the driver or an impact. They are intended to assist you in making good choices while on the road. Some active safety features may deploy on their own. Others require you to take some sort of action. Either way, their goal is to avoid a collision altogether.

Some of the most common examples of active safety features aimed at circumventing car accidents include:

  • Back-up cameras to help you see everything behind you from other vehicles and objects to pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Cruise control to keep you from exceeding posted speed limits.
  • Anti-lock brakes to lessen the chances of your brakes locking up, which can lead to your vehicle sliding out of control.
  • Lane change assists to alert you if you veer out of your lane and into the one next to you.
  • Driver attention alert, which is a relatively newer feature that keeps tabs on your driving patterns and behaviors to warn you when you may be distracted.
  • Tire pressure monitors provide you with a way of knowing when your tire pressure hits unsafe levels.
  • Automatic high beams activate on their own so you never have to worry about remembering to use your high beams when needed.

Again, if you are given a warning or “heads up” by any system in your car, you can be fairly sure it is because of an active safety feature. While not foolproof, active safety features have been heralded as beneficial.

What Are Passive Safety Features?

Unlike some active safety features, “passive safety features” deploy on their own when an accident is likely to happen. They serve to mitigate the severity of the damage during an accident or to stop an impending crash if at all possible. Passive safety features are designed to protect you and your vehicle when a crash is about to occur. You may be more familiar with passive safety features since some, like seatbelts, have been around for generations:

  • Seatbelts are designed to keep your body from moving around in the event of an accident and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says they saved more than 14,000 lives just in 2017.
  • Crumple zones are areas around the body of the car that are built to collapse in a controlled manner to lower the intensity of the collision impact.
  • Airbags are intended to inflate upon impact, providing a buffer between you and the front of your car.
  • Special laminated glass installed most vehicles shatters in a unique way to ensure that fewer shards fly toward you inside the car during a crash.

How Do Active and Passive Safety Features Work in Tandem?

Though active and passive safety features are not the same, they complement one another. For instance, an active safety feature will be engaged in advance of a passive safety feature. In an ideal work, the precautions taken by active safety features will prevent certain passive safety features like airbags from being deployed.

Should I Deactivate Active or Passive Safety Features?

If you just bought a new car with unfamiliar active safety features, you may find them confusing at first. Getting accustomed to lane change warnings or even a back-up assist camera can take time. However, it is in your best interest not to deactivate any active or passive safety features.

Instead of turning off your safety features, learn how to use them appropriately. Young drivers should be taught how and why to use each device, such as why it is essential to wear a seatbelt even when traveling a short distance.

Should I Add an Active or Passive Safety Feature to My Vehicle?

Chances are strong that your vehicle already has some or all of the most frequently seen passive safety features. It may not have all the active safety features, though. Should you add some to make your vehicle a little safer?

A good starting point is to talk with your auto technician or a car dealership about which active safety features would be a good investment based on your vehicle and driving habits. If you travel a lot for work and find yourself getting bored, tired, and distracted a few hours into your trips, you might feel that a driver attention alert will benefit you. On the other hand, you may wish you had a back-up assist camera if you park your vehicle in a garage with very tight spaces and little turning room.

The next time you purchase a new car, you may want to ask about the active and passive safety features that come standard with your preferred model. Dealerships may present you with potential upgrades as well.

Can Active and Passive Safety Features Keep Me from Getting in an Accident?

Over the years, statistical evidence shows that active and passive safety features help more people walk away from accidents that could have been devastating. This does not mean that you will remain unhurt if you get into a collision in a vehicle with active and passive safety features. Yet your injuries may not be as extreme.

What happens if you believe that your safety features failed? You may want to speak with a car accident lawyer. Technologies do not always work as intended, including technologies meant to protect drivers. Knowing your rights can help you decide how to proceed after getting into a crash you believe was caused or exacerbated by a malfunctioning safety feature.

Vehicle Crash Survivors Trust the St. Clair County Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC to Give Straightforward Advice

Did an active or passive safety feature malfunction during your crash? Talk to one of our St. Clair county car accident lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC. Contact us at 618-277-3644 or fill out a form online to meet at our Swansea, Illinois office. We handle cases in Monroe County, Waterloo, St. Clair County, Edwardsville, St. Louis, Madison County, Granite City, East St. Louis, Belleville, Randolph County, Carbondale, and Chester.