Top 5 safety features to look out for when purchasing a family car

Here's the guide to family car safety features.

While cost and space are the two things that define which car you buy, if you’re buying a vehicle to transport your family around in, then safety should be just as high up the list of priorities. Here are five safety features to look out for when purchasing a family car.

1 – Airbags

Even some of the cheapest brand-new cars on sale in Ireland today come as standard with six airbags, but not so long ago it was quite normal for there to be airbags for the front seat occupants only. So, if you’re buying a used family car, inspect it for the presence of airbags, specifically ‘curtain’ airbags that extend to protect those in the rear from a side-on collision. Naturally, airbags are not designed to replace seatbelts, but they can be highly effective at reducing injury in a serious crash.

2 – Tyre pressure monitoring

Since 2014 it has been a legal requirement for new cars to be fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems, but before that, these potentially life-saving devices were, for the most part, optional - and take-up was poor. In an ideal world, all motorists would regularly check their tyres, but parents in busy households are as likely as anyone else to not prioritise this. Tyre pressure monitoring helps keep on top of slow pressure drops, but it also can warn the driver as soon as a puncture has been experienced, potentially preventing a high-speed blowout. If you’re looking at cars pre-2014, check for this feature.

3 – Electronic stability control

Electronic stability control (ESC – though the car makers use various other names, such as DSC for Dynamic Stability Control and ESP for Electronic Stability Programme) is probably the most important safety feature on any car, as it prevents many crashes happening early in the process. In simple terms, an army of sensors monitor the car and if they detect a skid then the system can apply the brakes to individual wheels to bring the car back under control, quicker than an average driver would manage for themselves. Independent statistics reveal that cars with electronic stability control fitted are involved in 25 per cent fewer crashes than those without, so make sure your family car has it.

4 – ISOFIX mountings

If you have small kids, then you’ll be well-versed in the cost of child seats and the space needed to fit them into your car. Technically speaking, non-ISOFIX seats can be just as safe and well-secured as ISOFIX ones, but there’s no doubt that there’s more margin for error in fitting the seats and the potential for the belts to loosen over time. Hence, we advocate the use of ISOFIX seats, as the mountings are positive and secure every time. These standardised mountings are not on all cars though, so inspect the seats for them before committing.

5 – Collision avoidance system

Since the advent of anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, the car makers have been striving to make their cars safer and safer. The latest models feature various forms of collision avoidance, from automatic emergency braking to active steering away from an imminent hazard. It’s worth seeking these out for a family car. The most common simply applies full braking force if the system detects either a pedestrian or, for example, a stopped vehicle, in the path of the car and the driver has taken no action. This prevents crashes caused by the inattentiveness of the driver, which, let’s face it, can happen with a few kids in the car. It’s a worthwhile investment.