Pioneering car and family safety now and into the future
Volvo Cars has a reputation for manufacturing safe and reliable family-friendly vehicles and has been at the forefront of child safety research and innovation since the 1960s
Volvo Cars has a reputation for manufacturing safe and reliable family-friendly vehicles, an ethos which goes right back to the company’s foundation. Photograph: Volvo Cars
“Stay safe” is the new “best wishes”, but safety has always been a priority for families. David Thomas, managing director of Volvo Cars Ireland, says car safety continues to improve across the board. Innovative safety tests and advances in technology means cars are safer than ever.
Thomas notes that technology has been the main driver of car safety in the past decade. “It’s aimed at collision avoidance or mitigation, giving drivers early warnings and helping them stay away from other cars,” he explains, adding that features such as driver assistance and enhanced sensors make this possible. And other advances, such as the types of steel used, for example, can make a huge difference in how an impact affects the car and the people within.
Volvo Cars has a reputation for manufacturing safe and reliable family-friendly vehicles, but Thomas says this is no accident. “This ethos goes right back to the company’s foundation. Our founders said that cars are driven by people and therefore the guiding principle behind everything we do must remain safety,” he says.
“That was 94 years ago and that’s remained very much at the soul of the brand. The core of our brand is premium high quality family cars with advanced technology and advanced safety systems.”
In fact, Volvo Cars was the company that developed the three-point safety belt system back in 1959, the one still in use in all cars today. It refused to patent the design, making it available to all, and it is believed that the seatbelt as we know it today has saved upwards of a million lives.
“It was such an important innovation and is now the universal system for all seats in all cars,” Thomas says.
Dr Malie Coyne, clinical psychologist, and author of Love In, Love Out, says children learn best not from what they are told but by what they see.
“The parent, from the time the child is a very young age, should be modelling the non-negotiables of road safety and car safety, such as not crossing the road before looking left and right and demonstrating the care that’s taken putting kids into car seats or making sure their seatbelts are fastened correctly,” she explains.
This is of key importance to Volvo Cars, which has been at the forefront of child safety research and innovation since the 1960s. The company continues to carry out research monitoring how child seats react in real-life car environments, which has allowed it to develop a clear set of recommendations for how children can travel as safely as possible in a car. But Thomas says it’s often simple things, like using the child seats that are appropriate for your children’s size and age.
Our founders said that cars are driven by people and therefore the guiding principle behind everything we do must remain safety
“There is a lot of misunderstanding around the sort of seats that children should be kept in and at what age,” Thomas says. “It’s also about reinforcing with children the importance of being in a car seat and then when they get older, the importance of the seat belt.”
For toddlers, explaining road safety rules simply and why they are there is crucial, Coyne adds.
“It’s not about making them afraid, but it’s still important to explain the need for the seatbelt – that it’s to keep their body as safe as possible.”
Coyne believes that parents have to get strict when it comes to non-negotiables like car safety. She recalls a time when her child threw a teddy bear into the front seat as she was driving – she pulled over as soon as she could to firmly explain why that was a no-no.
“It’s okay to shout at your child because there are certain things to do with safety that they have to learn, they need to respect the road. You have to be a real disciplinarian in that situation.”
Ultimately, it’s about empowering them; “as they get older, it’s little things like them putting on their own seat belts, even though it might take ages, and knowing I won’t start the car until they are strapped in. You want the behaviour to become automatic, you don’t even remember putting on your seat belt, but you did it anyway.”
Coyne has other simple tips for journeys, long or short. “If you are going to school it can be a real rush, so try give yourself more time, while planning stops on any long journey is essential,” she says, adding that devices should be held back for the longest trips. “If it’s a short spin I think it’s good for kids to look out the window, to spot the sheep or to just be bored, to be in the moment. Devices should be the last resort.”
Since the introduction of the three-point safety seat belt, Volvo Cars has saved a million lives – the focus is now on saving the next million lives.
“You have higher vehicle ownership, you have higher traffic levels, there are just more vehicles on the road,” says Thomas. “The opportunities to save the next million should come quicker.”