Modern passenger cars are equipped with a smorgasbord of active and passive safety devices, all of which are pretty useless if you don’t buckle up, writes CARtoday.com columnist Jasmine.

It’s a great thing that passenger cars in particular are equipped with all sorts of paraphernalia to make your chances of surviving a crash so much greater. But is it really worth all the fuss?

Airbags in different shapes and sizes with crumple zones and folding bits are offered on a host of cars, leaving occupants with no more to do than buckle up and enjoy the ride. Yet even this is proving to be too difficult for some, since people are intent on ignoring even the most basic safety principles.

It’s all very well to recognise that your particular car may have scored five stars for occupant safety in its Euro NCAP evaluation, and perhaps three stars for pedestrian safety, for example. But sharing these stats with equally inebriated pals around the regular Saturday evening braai are all quite pointless when considering how many people still refuse to buckle up – and allow their children to do the same.

All the goodies meant to protect you in a crash are all pretty useless when “Doug” in his silver Audi TT doesn’t feel the need to ensure that the curly-haired munchkin kneeling on the seat beside him is not strapped it. Zipping through suburban streets may be fun to some, but accidents don’t often come with warning signals.

Recently I was chatting to this (not-so-bright) lady whose very active two-year-old refused to be strapped into her car seat and eventually had to be rushed to hospital with a split lip and busted cheek. Allowing her “angel” to prance about on the rear seat resulted in the brat crashing headfirst through the area separating the two front seats during some heavy braking. The same parents were then taken aback when the doctor inferred that by not strapping their daughter into her seat, they had abused her.

They may have been shocked, but the doc was quite right - parents and other family members saddled with angels or animals should realise that travelling by car, especially at this time of the year, is a risky business. Those injuries could have been infinitely worse.

After the BMW 5 Series recently scored dismally (by the manufacturer’s standard) in the Euro NCAP tests, the car was quickly whisked away, adjustments were made, and then retested. The results the second time round showed a dramatic improvement, but of course what was meant to be a hush-hush affair did the rounds quicker than a choc mousse cake at a Weigh-less party. Dealers in Europe were inundated with customers demanding that their barely-new cars be adjusted to make them more safe.

Let’s hope that, unlike many of their South African counterparts, they start with the basics and buckle up. –