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Which car safety devices are the most effective?

These days, many new vehicles are equipped with advanced safety features -- at least at the high end of the market. For many people, having a car or truck with all the latest safety features may be out of reach. Luckily, the ones that are saving the most lives are probably already installed on your vehicle.

What are the safety features that do save lives? Here's a rundown, courtesy of the Insurance Information Institute (III):

Seatbelts remain one of the most important safety features. One major reason is that they can prevent you from being ejected from the vehicle. Among fatal crashes in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 83% of passenger vehicle occupants who were ejected from their vehicles were killed as a result. NHTSA also says that wearing seatbelts reduces a front seat passenger's risk of fatal injury by 45% -- or by 60% among occupants of light trucks.

Overall, NTHSA says seatbelts saved 14,955 lives in 2017 alone.

Airbags are standard in most cars on the road today, and frontal airbags have been required on all vehicles since 1999. They are intended to inflate in moderate-to-severe front-end crashes. Even if you wear no seatbelt, your fatality risk drops by 14% when a front airbag properly inflates.

NHTSA estimates that frontal airbags saved 2,790 lives in 2017 among those 13 and older.

Child safety seats are crucial for younger travelers, but it is extremely important to make certain they are installed and used correctly.

NHTSA says that, in 2017, 325 kids under age 5 were saved by car seats.

Electronic stability control (ESC) has been a mandatory standard feature since model year 2012. It controls the brakes and engine power to prevent rollovers and other crashes.

In the year 2015, NHTSA says, ESC saved around 1,949 lives among passengers in cars, vans and light trucks. Between 2011 and 2016, ESC has saved over 7,000 lives.

The effect of some of the newer vehicle safety features is still unknown, although items such as collision avoidance technology, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and pedestrian detection systems seem promising.

If you are concerned that your current vehicle doesn't contain the latest safety features and you can't afford a brand-new car, consider having these key systems installed on the aftermarket. This could cost as little as a few hundred dollars.

Your car's safety features are important and effective, but seatbelts and child safety seats must be used to save your life. Make using them a habit.

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