Stella Motoring Series: The 101 of Safety Features in Cars by Motoring Expert Elise Elliott

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Their names are hard to keep straight, but they will keep you between the lines and even brake for you. And more tech is coming.

When buying a new car it’s easy to get bamboozled by so-called “specs”. There’s so much jargon it’s difficult to know what’s important: From cylinders, displacement, kilowatts, torque, transmission and cargo volume to turning circle. Throw in an array of acronyms — like ESC, ABS, AEB, LSS to BSM — and it’s no wonder many of us throw up our hands when purchasing a new vehicle, and say: “Whatevs. I’ll just buy the red car”.

It pays, however, to know your car’s safety features. They not only help you, the driver, survive a crash, but hopefully avoid one altogether. So, here are some terms and tech you shouldn’t overlook when buying a new vehicle.



You’ve probably heard of this before, but what does it mean? ANCAP stands for the Australasian New Car Assessment Program. This independent safety body has the job of crash testing vehicles. It then awards them a rating based on the safety they provide in a collision. Vehicles are awarded an ANCAP rating of zero to five stars indicating the level of safety. So if you can afford it, go for 5!


When deployed in a crash, these prevent serious injury and death. Look for cars with front, side, curtain and knee airbags.


Ever lost control of a car and fish-tailed? It’s frightening, not to mention potentially fatal. If this happens, ESC detects when tyres lose traction and takes steps to help the driver regain control, either by applying the brakes to spinning wheels or reducing power, or both. ESC is such a brilliant safety advancement, it’s mandatory on all new cars. Never turn off or disable the ESC button. If you’re buying an older car, and care about your safety, buy one with this important feature.


How on earth did we ever execute a dreaded reverse park on a busy street before reversing cameras? Using a monitor in the cabin and a rear-facing camera, this safety feature gives drivers a clear rearward view and can detect cars, people or objects in the way of a reversing vehicle. This is particularly important given our obsession with high-riding SUVs. Some of the newer systems provide very impressive large, clear screens, parking guidance lines and even a bird’s eye view from above so drivers can see their car in relation to surrounding obstacles. Nooo excuse for touch parking!



This technology uses a combination of cameras and sensors to monitor the view ahead and detect objects in a driver’s path. If the driver doesn’t respond in time, the vehicle automatically applies the brakes. Clever, right?

Lane Departure Warning (LDW)

This lets the driver know if they’re literally “crossing the line”! It’s a camera-based system that monitors the car’s position by observing the line markings on the road. If a driver wanders outside their lane, an electronic observer will trigger an audible, visual or haptic warning and get the car back on track.

Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)

This involves a proactive system that manipulates the steering to prevent drivers from veering outside their lane. In some new cars, I find these features quite aggressive; it can feel like you’re wrestling with your vehicle! But it’s a clever system designed to combat driver distraction and fatigue.


This is important for new parents. It’s a universal product standard used for safely attaching child safety capsules and booster seats in cars. (The “ISO” bit comes from the International Organisation for Standardisation. The “FIX” bit is a little more obvious). Its main benefit is the clip-in system which makes it easy to affix capsules and booster seats. Check your vehicle’s user manual to confirm whether it is ISOFIX compatible or, better still, ask before you buy.


It’s surprisingly easy to be distracted while driving. The temptation to gaze at your phone, text, change the music, check your makeup in the rear-view mirror, shave, eat, or turn around to shout at unruly kids can all lead to serious crashes.

You can have all the safety tech in the world, but driver focus is the most important.

So when it comes to buying a car, arm yourself with what technology is important; safety is one corner you do not wish to cut.

Want to know more about your cars, then follow our Motoring Expert @eliseelliott_media 

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