What lies beneath: A crucial safety feature you may be overlooking

Road transportation has come a long way since Henry Ford first motored onto the scene with the Model T back in 1908, and safety features are a particular stand out. There's one feature that seems to feature prominently, however.

Airbags. This is the technology that's front of mind for most safety-conscious new car buyers and fleet managers searching for cars to keep their teams safe on the road.

We're not looking at airbags in this article, however, we're taking a look at a safety component that lies beneath the surface, and it's one many are likely overlooking: the structural frame.

Just how important is it?

As we noted above, it's easy to gloss over some of the more critical safety features when shopping around for a new vehicle - especially ones that you're usually never going to see. The chassis acts as the skeleton of a vehicle, holding all critical components and absorbing impacts during a crash.

A strong frame is often the difference between a minor collision and a more serious crash, especially when the vehicle is hit from the sides or from the front.

In fact, the effect this part of the vehicle can have on safety is so significant that companies like Continental have devoted entire divisions to developing the safety aspects of the component.

So what makes a good frame?

We're going to turn to a supercharged example here - and one of the few vehicles across the globe that's achieved five stars in every category with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash test. While it's true some cars can claim a five star rating, few can point to five stars in every sub-category.

Of course, we're talking about the Tesla Model S: the electric car that's won countless car of the year awards.

This vehicle uses an aluminium occupant cell to keep the passengers safe, which is separated from the drive train. In place of the engine, boron steel rails can absorb the impact of a crash. Did we also mention that the car uses similar components to space craft?

And one that's less safe?

You're likely wondering what makes a poor structural frame - and there are quite a few examples on the market. Here is just one: the Chery J11.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded this model a two star rating, although it could change following a recall of the vehicle. While the side impact score was 16 out of 16, the front was significantly lower. In fact, ANCAP awarded it just 2.00 out of 16.

It's easy to see which is the preferable option, especially when purchasing vehicles to keep your team safe on the road.

When it comes time to purchase new fleet vehicles, make sure that you're looking at more than just fuel consumption. In many cases, the frame could reduce the danger during an accident.