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A safety package option on a new vehicle is designed to add protection to the driver and the passengers of the vehicle. Internal features such as air bags, collapsible steering columns and safety glass are accompanied by external features such as collapsible safety bumpers, crush panels and anti-lock brakes. Other features of a safety package are run-flat tires, automatic emergency response notification and built-in child safety seating. In the United States, many features and options once available only as part of a safety package are now standard equipment on many vehicles due to changes in federal law and new vehicle requirements.
One of the earliest safety package options offered on a new vehicle was the hydraulic braking system. Prior to the hydraulic brake, the braking system on a vehicle was not very dependable, nor would it slow down a vehicle very quickly from highway speeds. Mechanical brakes were operated by a steel rod that actually pulled the brake shoes against the drums when the brake pedal was depressed. Mis-adjustments as well as wear created a functioning brake system that was lacking in results. The creation of the hydraulic braking system offered as a safety package was well-received by consumers.
Brakes have long been the focus of most safety packages, and the introduction of the disk brake was no exception. The main advantage of a disk brake over a drum system is the ability to reduce heat. While a drum brake will actually build up heat and warp the drum, the disk brake will dissipate heat and allow for much shorter and quicker stops. Power brakes with vacuum assist were the next evolution in the braking safety package.
Other now-common vehicle features that were previously offered as only options in a safety package include power steering, radial tires and seat belts. The lap belt was the first factory option which was mandated by federal law to become standard equipment. The shoulder belt followed, with rear occupant seat belts becoming mandated equipment years later. Bumper packages as well as a third brake light were also once only available in a safety package.
Technological advancements have fueled more safety options, such as on-board emergency notification that is automatically activated upon impact or collision. With this feature, emergency responders such as police, fire and ambulance crews are notified of the accident by an operator monitoring the system. The operator is able to give officials precise global positioning system (GPS) coordinates to the location of the accident.