The Difference Between Active and Passive Safety

The Difference Between Active and Passive Safety

The best-case scenario in a potentially risky driving situation is the driver avoids an accident altogether. That said, some collisions are impossible to avoid, necessitating careful engineering to mitigate their damaging consequences. These two safety categories—preventative and responsive—are active and passive safety measures. Here’s a brief guide to the differences between active and passive safety and each’s function.

Active Safety

First, a car’s active safety features alert the driver to unfavorable driving conditions or automatically implement steps to avoid an issue. Rather than enacting after a collision, active measures are utilized in the hopes to stop one. There are many longstanding, conventional active safety measures, including electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock braking (ABS), and many more.

The ESC and ABS systems work in tandem to correct for lost stability and maintain your ability to maneuver when braking. Electronic stability control senses when you begin to slide laterally out of control, and powers individual wheels differently to compensate for this slide and restore control. Meanwhile, anti-lock braking prevents your wheels from completely locking up and eliminating your steering options in an emergency. It does this by quickly releasing and reapplying your brake many times in quick succession to maintain your braking force yet retain the ability to shift your direction. ESC and ABS actively engage when your car detects unusual conditions and work to keep you from colliding with another vehicle or obstacle, hence the active nature of these active safety controls.

In general, every dashboard alert is an active feature in that it alerts you to a less than ideal condition—low oil, high engine temperature—and gives you a chance to address it. Also, modern cars have many more active features, including blind-spot detection, lane departure warnings, and even driver-attentiveness monitoring and alerts.

Passive Safety

At the same time, cars have other response-driven strategies for limiting the effects of a collision, called passive safety controls. These include, among others, seats and seatbelts, airbags, and crumple zones.

These systems require a bit less explanation, but their function is vital. Seatbelts, coupled with spring-loaded passenger seats, bear and lessen the effect of the body’s inertia in a certain direction. Seatbelts keep people in place upon crashing by locking at a certain force threshold, preventing someone’s ejection from their seat. Further, they lie along your chest and abdomen to best distribute the resistance force and avoid an injury. In an accident, pressurized airbags deploy from many angles within the car to cushion the head and body at exactly the point of impact, improving overall health outcomes after a crash.

Additionally, there are several crumple zones built into a car to respond to collision forces by absorbing them and leaving the passengers unharmed. These crumple zones are at the front and back of the vehicle, while the cabin remains comparatively intact due to its rigidity. This and other passive safety measures do not prevent an accident, but they simply respond to a collision to lessen its effects.

If you have further questions about the difference between active and passive safety, consider enrolling in one of Driving Arizona’s helpful driving courses. We operate a driving school in Chandler, AZ, as well as many other locations across Arizona, and our professional instructors know the ins and outs of active and passive safety. Not to mention, you’ll get insight on hundreds of other important driving topics and practices.

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