Throughout the past decade, foreign and domestic automakers have added features to production automobiles making them safer for drivers and better designed to avoid collisions. Other features increase the protection level of the vehicle’s occupants in cases where a collision cannot be avoided.
Using Features for Increased Driver Safety
- Traction Control: Most cars come equipped with traction control (TC), also called electronic stability control (ESC), to limit wheel spin and reduce the potential for skidding. To use this feature safely, simply drive and brake normally. If your tires suddenly lose traction on wet pavement or gravel, the system may cut power to one or more wheels to prevent a possible skid from developing. Drivers should not panic, simply proceed and normal power will be restored to the drive wheels when the system senses the vehicle has re-stabilized.
- Side Impact / Curtain Airbags: Most cars built after 2002 come equipped with side impact and side curtain airbags. Side impact airbags deploy if the car is struck from the side. Curtain airbags deploy in cases of severe side impact or in cases where the vehicle rolls over. In order for these systems to do their jobs effectively, all vehicle occupants should wear their seat belts at all times. A seat belt will keep a driver/passenger in the seat, while the airbags will help cushion any net impact from the side. Without a seatbelt, the side airbags may not protect the occupants effectively.
- Collision Avoidance Systems: This technology is relatively new and is currently offered on some 2014 Infiniti models as well as the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. A system of forward sensors scans traffic patterns up to two vehicles ahead. Warning lights and tones warn the driver of obstacles or slowing traffic ahead of the vehicle that may not yet be visible. In certain cases, the vehicle will brake automatically and stop itself if the driver fails to do so and is in danger of colliding with a vehicle or object. The systems are new and are designed as an emergency backup braking method. The systems cannot prevent an accident if a driver is following too closely and they cannot prevent distracted driving. Drivers should still take proactive measures to eliminate distractions, such as cell phones, while the vehicle is in motion. This system is expected to be more widely available across more vehicle models over the next 5 years.
- Back-Up Cameras: More vehicles, such as the 2014 Honda Civic, have backup cameras as standard equipment. These can help drivers in busy neighborhoods and in parking lots. When the car is placed in reverse, a small in-dash LCD screen shows the driver what is behind the vehicle below the window-line. Drivers should still turn and look behind them when backing up, but glancing at the screen display can help a driver to see any objects or people that may be in the blind spot behind the vehicle. Backup cameras can also assist drivers in avoiding curbs, objects, and other vehicles during parallel parking or backing into parking spaces.
- Voice Command Controls: Some newer vehicles are equipped with voice recognition technology. Several 2013 and newer vehicles can adjust audio and climate settings when the driver speaks a set of commands. This is an effective tool to help combat distracted driving. Using voice commands keeps the driver’s eyes on the road ahead and hands on the wheel. By controlling settings with verbal commands, a driver’s focus stays on the road and better prepares him/her for sudden dangers on the road ahead.