Safety performance is a top priority for many car buyers. However, with so many new safety features on the market, one must wonder which are actually worth the price – especially in today’s world of recalls.
The problem is that many new safety features seem “too cool” to be left out, which is why some people install them without even checking if they are any good. Yet safety organizations like the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) continue to insist that new cars should include more advanced safety devices. While we agree, we would also stress that not all of them are useful.
So, if you think your car should be safer, but you are not sure which features are for you, here is a list of the most promising safety options currently available:
1. Parking Assist
Parking assist for those who clench the wheel too tightly or brake too fast when parallel parking on a busy road is an indispensable tool. The technology inspires confidence because it alerts you when you are too close to a curb or a neighbouring vehicle.
Keep in mind that parking assist exists in many forms, which means that you can get different levels of protection. Some manufacturers offer basic rear monitoring, which sounds an alarm whenever you approach an object. Some include front monitoring for extra safety. More advanced systems incorporate a 360-degree camera that provides a top-down view of your car. Select manufacturers also offer a function called “active park assist,” which automatically parks the car for you.
Manufacturers usually offer parking assist as part of a “Driver Assistance Package,” which can cost between $1,000 and $3,000. But, thanks to the popularity of the optional feature, some automakers sell it separately at around $300.
2. Adaptive Headlights
Unlike traditional headlights, adaptive headlights sense the curvature of the road and send the beam of light ahead accordingly – so that the driver’s visibility is not hindered. In addition, adaptive headlights recognize when another vehicle is on the road and dim or brighten at the appropriate time.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), adaptive headlights have played a role in reducing 10 per cent of overall insurance claims. Moreover, only 7 per cent of police-reported accidents between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. were caused with adaptive headlights in use.
You can find adaptive headlights in a “Driver Assistance Package” or a “Visibility Package,” but keep in mind that they cost about $1,500 more than conventional headlights.
3. Forward Collision Avoidance System
Forward collision avoidance system utilizes radar-based technology and comes in two tiers. One senses when the vehicle is approaching an obstruction and alerts the driver with audio beeps and/or vibrations. The more advanced version also applies the brakes when an imminent collision is about to occur.
Regular testing is being implemented on forward collision avoidance systems and the results are quite impressive. Even if a collision is unavoidable, the reduction of speed and the resulting warning is often enough to mitigate damages and injuries. Last year, the BMW 5-Series and many other vehicles that utilize this system received top safety scores during IIHS evaluations.
Forward collision avoidance system is available as part of optional packages – and the number of models with the packages are growing. Nearly 40 per cent of all 2014 models had this option, and even more 2015 vehicles have it now.
4. Inflatable Seat Belts
Seat belts and airbags have been the anchor point and safety nets for drivers and passengers for many years. However, inflatable seat belts are relatively new in terms of safety features. Inflatable seat belts, also known as force limiters, reduce the impact of the belt from spreading when the passenger is jolted forward during an accident. This innovation is known to minimize chest, neck and back injuries and has also been revered for its comfort.
While some are singing praises for inflatable seat belts, many are still hesitant. Inflatable seat belts, like air bags, can reportedly cause injuries of their own, especially in small children.
In 2011, Ford pioneered the inflatable seat belts and continues to be one of the key automotive brands to advocate the technology to this day. For now, this technology is confined mainly to Ford and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, but as more tests are conducted, we are sure more manufacturers will follow.
5. Text Blocker
Distracted driving remains one of the prime causes of car accidents. While drivers are responsible for their actions, technology can help reduce the temptation. Text blockers or other texting deterrents are now finding their way into vehicle safety packages.
While there are numerous apps that can perform text-blocking duties, the latest Ford models come equipped with this feature from the get-go. When an incoming text is received, the vehicle notifies you, reads the message and sends a “call me back later” response.
Text blockers are a bit controversial though since they do take away a certain degree of freedom. In fact, Apple is currently developing a function for its CarPlay system that would alert providers whenever the driver is texting, who would then disable the phone.