Today’s vehicles are often available with a dizzying array of safety systems and technologies. Some features help drivers avoid crashes, while others help reduce danger and prevent injuries when a collision is unavoidable. While all of these features can be useful, they’re often offered at additional cost, meaning that it can become quite expensive if you want a vehicle that’s fully equipped. Prioritize the most important safety technologies and you will benefit from both a lower price tag and great peace of mind.
Certain safety technologies are included as standard equipment on almost all new vehicles. These essential systems include frontal airbags and side-impact protection to lessen crash risks; anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control to strengthen stopping power and traction; and backup cameras to improve rear visibility and avoid pedestrian crashes. However, older vehicles may not offer all of these features or any at all, which is something to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a used car.
Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking
According to Edmunds, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are two of the most helpful safety systems — especially if you’re prone to distraction behind the wheel. Forward-collision warning uses sensors to issue a warning if you’re in danger of crashing into a vehicle or object ahead of you. If your response is too slow, the warning system triggers automatic emergency braking to avoid or mitigate a collision. These systems are fairly common options on today’s cars, and Nicole Arata of NerdWallet writes that 20 automakers have committed to making automatic emergency braking standard on all their vehicles by 2022.
Lane-departure warning and lane-keeping support
Using sensors to monitor your car’s position, lane-departure warning technology will alert you with lights, noises or vibrations if you stray out of your lane. However, unclear road markings and dirty sensors can reduce its effectiveness. Writing for The Associated Press, automotive analyst Ronald Montoya recommends adding lane-departure warning technology if it comes with additional lane-keeping support, which automatically adjusts your vehicle’s steering and brakes to keep it on course.
Blind-spot monitoring technology uses sensors to help you change lanes safely. On some cars, it’s set up to alert you whenever another vehicle is in one of your blind spots. On other cars, the alert comes only after you’ve activated your turn signal or start to move into a new lane. In its most sophisticated version, Arata writes, this technology will also show you a camera view of your vehicle’s blind spots.
Rear cross-traffic alert
Rear cross-traffic alert technology is especially helpful when you’re trying to back out of a driveway or parking space. Using sensors on your rear bumper, it detects traffic coming from either side and alerts you with a noise or a light. According to Montoya, this technology may not spot objects right behind your vehicle, so it’s best used in combination with a backup camera.
Adaptive cruise control
Adaptive cruise control goes well beyond regular cruise control. Instead of just keeping your car at a steady speed, this radar-activated technology automatically adjusts braking and acceleration to keep pace with the flow of traffic. If your commute is long and dull or features lots of stop-and-go traffic, adaptive cruise control could be especially helpful. Montoya points out that it requires you to give up some control over your car when activated, so it may not be worth the extra cost if you’re not comfortable with trusting this technology.
As you shop, you’ll find that each of these technologies has the potential to increase your safety during everyday drives and longer trips. Once you’ve carefully assessed your top priorities, you’ll be well-equipped to decide which features are merely nice to have and which ones are truly essential for your next vehicle.