As automobiles evolve, it becomes more important than ever to consider safety issues. Our roads are becoming more congested even as cars, trucks, and SUVs are rolling off the factory floors with more horsepower. This means drivers and their passengers have more exposure to injury, and worse.

Over the years, automakers have responded to this growing need by designing a number of critical safety features for their respective fleets. Some, like airbags, have already saved thousands of lives. But the need continues unabated. With this in mind, we'll take a closer look at several of your vehicle's most important features for ensuring you and your passengers remain safe on the road.

Electronic Traction Control

In order to maintain control of your vehicle, your wheels must have traction on the road's surface. If the spinning force of your treads is greater than the available friction between them and the road, you'll experience wheelspin. Traction control prevents this problem.

In most vehicles, the traction control feature works with the anti-lock brakes. The system uses sensors to monitor the spin of your wheels on the road at all times. If it notices one of your drive wheels is losing traction, it will engage the brake on that particular wheel. This reduces slipping, and helps the treads regain traction. In some cars, the system will also reduce engine power to the wheel.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

This features uses additional sensors to make sure your vehicle is heading in the direction you intend. These sensors monitor the speed of your wheels, the position of your steering wheel, yaw rate, and other details. If the stability control system notices your car is moving in a direction other than that which you intend, it will apply the brakes.

The difference between brake application by you (the driver) and the ESC system is that the latter can do so on individual wheels. After making quick calculations that compare your inputs with your car's response, it determines where braking power should be applied, how much, and whether to reduce engine power. This minimizes the likelihood of skidding or sliding.

Front And Side Airbags

Any discussion of automotive safety must include mention of airbags. Frontal airbags are installed in all vehicles, and have been required for several years. The bags' deployment system receives data from a crash sensor that determines whether a collision warrants inflation. In most cars, the sensor will trigger inflation if the force generated from a collision meets or exceeds that produced from hitting a wall at ten miles per hour.

Airbag technology has advanced dramatically over the past decade. In a growing number of vehicles, the system can now monitor the position of an occupant as well as her size and weight. When a collision occurs, the deployment system inflates the bags in a way that minimizes the potential for injury.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Your car's tires lose pressure so slowly that you may be unaware they're underinflated. The problem is, insufficient pressure leads to excessive wear, poor steering response, and in some cases, a blowout. For these reasons, every new vehicle is now equipped with a system that monitors your tire pressure. If the pressure declines past a certain point, the system will alert you to the issue. This safety feature was mandated by the federal government in 2006.

Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

In an emergency where you need to stop your car quickly to avoid a collision, brake assist is valuable. This feature monitors the force and speed with which you push down on your brake pedal. If the EBA determines that you're trying to bring your vehicle to an immediate stop, it will amplify your braking power.

The safety features above represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Automakers continue to strive toward making the driving experience safer for drivers and their passengers.