Locking your car doors - for accident safety?

I have an ongoing dispute with my wife. She insists that we should lock the car doors after we get inside because she believes this will help prevent them from opening should an accident occur. I maintain that the locking mechanism simply engages/disengages the door handle from the latching mechanism and has no bearing on vehicle safety (aside from preventing a child from opening the door while in motion) Who’s right?

She is. The lock adds an additional safety factor in that a sharp hit won’t be able to trip the door release mechnism as if someone were pulling on the outside or inside handle.

Pay up.

Well, there’s always the chance of the outside handle being activated in an accident, and I suppose of a passenger unintentionally operating the inside one also. If unlocked the door would open leaving passengers exposed and any airbags in doors would not function properly. Most cars now days lock automatically as the car starts moving.

The Accords we have at work automatically lock the doors when the shifter is taken out of Park.

I’m personally unsure of this. Having the doors locked should be an additional barrier against opening in a side hit, but if the driver is rendered unconscious and there’s a danger of fire, it also prevents a good samaritan from removing the driver from the car. We recently had a situation wherein a good samaritan saved a lady’s life by removing her from her vehicle, which burned. This does happen. Doors are required to withstand a specific force from within (I seem to recalll 4000 pounds, but I’m not sure) as well as to remain closed after a side impact anyway. I’m not sure this isn’t overkill to the opint of creating a larger risk than it prevents.

I’d suggest visiting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website www.IIHS.org to search for data. They may have something. They’re the officially recognized (hence the .org) standard on automotive safety.

I would vote in favor of locking the car doors. When I was a freshmen in college, I was riding through town with another student. The doors were unlocked and a drunk jumped into the back seat at an intersection. He demanded that we drive him to a town 50 miles away. We were about 15 miles out of town when the drunk told us to stop so he could go to the bathroom. He got out and was urinating while he hung onto the back door. My friend floored the accelerator and we left him at the side of the road. Several years later, I was on my way to the university I attended for graduate work. I was stopped at an intersection and a man tried to get into the car. I had the doors locked and when the light turned green, I took off and he let go of the door handle pretty quickly.

Yeah, I would assume that the locking isn’t primarily about accident safety as it is about car jacking safety.

Excellent point. Where I live this isn’t a concern, but there are many urban areas where it is.

I am more worried about automatic door locks blocking my entry or exit than I am of someone jumping in to bother me. Those rear door child locks are a real problem for me. They seem to add to the problem of child safety. Certainly where we live has a great deal of influence on what adds and detracts from safety. Visiting a small town in Alabama many years ago it was noticed that all the cars parked downtown had the windows open and the keys in the ignition. When a store owner was questioned he answered very matter of factly that it was hot and leaving the windows open prevented the interiors from getting too hot and the keys were left in the ignition in case a delivery truck needed to move them to get to the stores. It seemed to make perfect sense then. I wish it did today.

If you drove through downtown Minneapolis every day like me, you’d keep your doors locked all the time regardless of the risk of burning up in a fire.

Standard safety precaution, recommended for decades. Sometimes there is more to a story than just what is obvious. Disconnecting the door handle does help the door stay closed if the car is hit. The force of an impact will cause many things to move around, causing inadvertent operation of whatever it’s connected to. Disputes are for politics because nobody can prove right or wrong. Physics brings us all closer together.

You should listen to your wife more often. Not only for accident safety but for your wifes safety. Do you not realize the world is full of creepers, spooks, drunks, rapers, murderers, etc.?

Common sense should tell you to lock the doors.

The doors in my car automatically lock when my car hits 15 mph and they unlock when I put the car in park and shut the engine off. It seems to be standard for all cars now days with power locks on them. I like this feature because with my old car, I always forgot to lock my doors once I got the car started.

“When a store owner was questioned he answered very matter of factly that it was hot and leaving the windows open prevented the interiors from getting too hot and the keys were left in the ignition in case a delivery truck needed to move them to get to the stores.”

If every car is potentially in the way, you’ve got the town drunk driving the delivery trucks.How about the delivery truck double parks and HE leaves the key in his ignition?

There used to be a couple neighborhoods in Brooklyn where locking the car was considered an insult to the neighborhood, or more precisely to some people who lived there, but that’s a different can of tomatoes.

I don’t really care for the locking of the car doors while moving for the reason MB stated. I’d also add that if one somehow careens off the road and into a river(or misjudge the depth of a flooded street), then a locked door could prevent you from exiting the vehicle in a timely maner.

Better keep a hammer in the car in case you careen into a river so you can bust the windows out…

Lots of good responses and good reasons for either. I’m going to assume that cars with automatic door locks like mine, are programmable so they DON’T have to lock when moving. Mine are defaulted to placing in gear and remain there, but can easily be changed. Suppose if I frequently traveled near wetlands, I might feel differently. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Usually, the programming is smart enough to unlock the door(s) after a collision is detected or the engine stops running. Let’s consider the probability of occurance before panicking about a situation that most people won’t even know someone who knows someone that this happened to…

Locking the car door doesn’t ‘deadbolt’ it like locking your door at home perhaps does, but basically deactivates the door handle on the outside. I doubt it matters much for safety, except for carjacking and the like, as others have said. I personally hate the feature that locks the doors when you start moving. To me it’s just something that will put extra wear on the locking system, but to others it may be a valuable safety feature. To each their own. Fortunately mine is easily disabled through an options menu.

The computer (body control module) on most recent cars (I know for sure on Chrysler vehicles) will automatically unlock the doors and turn on interior lights in the event of an accident to assist with rescue. Unfortunately I know this both from the owner’s manual and experience.

You can NOT lock yourself – IN --, in most vehicles these days. ( unless the rear child locks are set. )
I’m not sure when that design was implimented but I remember my 91 & 92 Explorers had it.
My 79 Chevy does not.
My current 06 hybrid Escape and 08 Expedition are most certainly this way.
The funny part is, My 6 & 8 year old sons will sit and wait for me to hit the unlock button before exiting the vehicle. I prefer it that way and am not going to spill the beans, but my 12teen daughter knows that she’s not locked in.

On my old Civic I could not lock the driver’s door using the lock button on the door while it was open. Was told it was so I couldn’t lock my keys in the car.
My CX7 has keyless entry and start, so I just push a little button on the outer door handle to lock or unlock it. If I don’t have my keys on me(pocket/belt loop), then it won’t work. Also, if my keys aren’t inside the cabin, it won’t start the car, either; even standing just outside the door(as in just leaning inside the car to try and start it after I open the door), it won’t work.