Cars on highway.

Modern cars come equipped with devices designed to prevent accidents and protect passengers when they occur.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Active and Passive Driving Safety

Learning how to drive defensively makes sense, but accidents can and will happen. Luckily, modern cars are equipped with a number of devices that are designed to prevent accidents, and to keep the car's driver and occupants safe if an accident does occur. These devices generally fall under two categories: active driving safety and passive driving safety.

Active driving safety refers to devices and systems that help keep a car under control and prevent an accident. These devices are usually automated to help compensate for human error -- the single biggest cause of car accidents [source: Forbes]. For example:

  • Anti-lock brakes prevent the wheels from locking up when the driver brakes, enabling the driver to steer while braking.
  • Traction control systems prevent the wheels from slipping while the car is accelerating.
  • Electronic stability control keeps the car under control and on the road.

Passive driving safety refers to systems in the car that protect the driver and passengers from injury if an accident does occur.

  • Air bags provide a cushion to protect the driver and passengers during a crash.
  • Seat belts hold passengers in place so that they aren't thrown forward or ejected from the car.
  • Rollover bars protect the car's occupants from injury if the vehicle rolls over during an accident.
  • Head restraints prevent the driver and passengers from getting whiplash during a rear-end collision.

For more information on defensive driving techniques, explore the links on the next page.