Do new car safety features really help?
Mercedes has announced in a press release that it will start to include the shoulder belt airbag in one of its “luxury” models soon (aren't they all?) Are wealthy businessmen riding in the back of SL’s dying in the streets? Has there even been a recorded case of person being killed in the back of a full size Mercedes while belted? As a father and citizen, this writer is all about safety. As a mechanical engineer and lifelong student of all things automotive, this writer would not buy a vehicle without modern life-saving safety equipment. The reality is however, that in the past five years, despite a huge roll-out of new gadgets, cameras, self-driving systems, and amazing new doo-dads, none of them seem to be saving anyone. Worse, they are starting to cloud our judgment of what actually does save lives and prevent accidents in the first place. A recent NHTSA study points out that many new systems don’t show any improvements in lives saved.
In its press statement Mercedes hints as to who the belts are designed to save. The company says that in emerging markets rear seat occupancy of its luxury models is as high is 30 percent. That is much higher than in the US and in Europe. Reading between the lines, it seems that by using the term luxury model we are talking about primarily the S class limo and the E class executive sedans. Wealthy moms with kids to haul around use sport utes from Mercedes, not sedans. By using the phrase "emerging markets" Mercedes means China. So in translation: This belt bag is designed to protect the life of a Chinese business person riding in the back of a S class limo in the event the car is involved in a head on collision.