Car safety, and often the lack of it, continues to make news headlines. Everything from failed braking systems to carbon dioxide emissions inside the car have consumers concerned about which brand and model to choose. But the news is not all bad. Technology continues to make driving both easier and safer, with some amazing new features that are soon to become the standard on all new cars. Here are our choices for the top five car safety advancements of this year.
1. The forward collision warning and automatic braking systems.
These systems are seen often in TV car commercials. A driver is moving along at a normal rate of speed when suddenly a person or object streaks out in front of them. The car comes to a sudden, but safe, halt preventing injury to the passengers in the car and avoiding hitting the person or object in front of them. In real life, the systems give an audible warning immediately when the danger is ahead, followed by application of the automatic braking system. This is a much needed system with the dramatic rise of accidents caused by distracted driving. The technology uses a radar-like system to detect moving objects in the path of the car. Because faster speeds require longer stopping distances, it adjusts itself as necessary based on the speed of the vehicle you are driving. But notice the commercials have the cars stopping in normal weather conditions. You will have to still adjust your driving habits based on weather conditions, especially winter weather.
2. Lane departure warning and assist technology.
If you are wondering how it is possible for traffic on a highway with no stop signs or traffic signals to come to a complete halt, the answer is drivers changing lanes. A missed exit or not planning ahead to move to the exit ramp will force you to get into the right lane sooner than later. Changing lanes is almost a reflex action for drivers. Technology now allows you to know when you have crossed into another lane and helps you do it safely. More advanced systems take over the driving and slowly move you back into your lane, though the potential for arguing with your car is there. Future improvements will drop the accident rates for sideswiping and accidents caused by running off the road by 30 percent or more.
3. The blind spot warning system.
Blind spots are historically one of the biggest reasons accidents occur from behind. As far back as the 1970’s, reducing or eliminating the blind spot in cars had been tried. AMC’s (American Motor Car) Pacer was made of 37 percent glass with the aim of increasing visibility and reducing gas mileage. But the amount of glass often proved to be a safety issue for consumers. The current blind spot warning systems are more aptly described as blind zone warning systems. Drivers are visually and/or audibly notified when an approaching car is in the blind spot. Some critics have noted that the location of the sensor, usually on the outside mirror, decreases the system’s effectiveness as not all drivers use the outside mirrors. If you are one of those drivers who depends on the outboard mirrors, the system will definitely save you money by avoiding collisions from the rear.
This is not like the Escape key on your keyboard, but is an acronym for Electronic Stability Control. Primarily aimed at bringing the car back in line when skidding occurs, the ESC detects when the driver is losing steering control and applies the brakes on individual wheels to guide the car back on course. The National Highway Safety board estimates that the total number of accidents can be reduced by as much as 35 percent if all cars had ESC technology. In case you are wondering, this technology does not affect the car’s ability to steer corners.
5. Adaptive headlights.
How many cartoon have you seen where the headlights of a car are pictured as the car’s “eyes”? That day has not yet arrived, but adaptive headlights are a step in that direction. If you have ever driven at night in areas that are almost completely dark then you know how critical headlamps are. The danger is moved up a notch when turning or moving through a curve. Adaptive headlights are designed to move with the direction of the steering wheel. That means you head, the car, and the headlights are all moving in the same direction at the same time. Night driving is difficult. Adaptive headlamps bring a new level of safety to the challenge.
Overall, experts admit that much of the new – and future – safety features still are in the hands of the driver. Distracted driving can significantly limit the usefulness of these safety features and is the current priority for car manufacturers, law enforcement, and safety experts. But if you are a focused driver who is looking to increase your level of safety while driving, these are the newest and best choices of 2017.