If you’ve bought a car in the past five to 10 years, you have likely heard a salesman’s speech about new safety features. Collision-avoidance systems were once considered a luxury add-on, but are now fairly common in new vehicles. While the sales pitch may grab your attention right away, do you actually need these advanced features to be safer?

When collision-avoidance systems were introduced, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) added them to its safety testing procedures. In general, they work to reduce – if not prevent – crash risks and lessen the overall impact. However, cars with top safety scores come with a forward-collision warning system and automatic braking that correctly operates in formal track testing. Based on the overall benefits, the IIHS has spoken about making some safety systems mandatory for future designs.

Yet, many manufacturers attach a higher price tag – over $5,000 in some cases – or only include them with a high-end package. As you debate this cost, consider the following points before you decide.

How Collision-Avoidance Systems Work

Vehicle backup cameraNo matter which collision-avoidance systems your car has, they all use a general combination of sensors, cameras, lasers and radar to observe and take note of the vehicle’s surroundings. This includes other cars, pedestrians, cyclists, road signs – and its own actions.

Based on what it should be monitoring, these observations get processed by the vehicle’s computer, which sends a signal requiring an action by you or the car. Low level, your car may beep, flash a light or tighten the seat belt. Yet, if you fail to take the proper action, the car may have a more extreme reaction. For instance, if you’re approaching another vehicle or a pedestrian, the car may partially or fully brake on its own without warning.

Types of Car Safety Features

Depending on the car’s manufacturer and package deal, your vehicle could be equipped with:

  • Automatic emergency braking – The car automatically applies the brakes or reduces speed when its sensors determine you’re about to hit another object. This feature is more common in the front, but for the rear, it often works with the rear cross-traffic system.
  • Forward-collision warning – Sensors send a combination of visual and audio alerts if it looks like you’re about to hit another object.
  • Blind-spot warning – The car monitors your blind spots and sends visual or audio signals if you’re about to hit something within their boundaries.
  • Rear cross-traffic warnings – Should your vehicle be equipped with a rear camera, your car sends a signal if another object is about to enter its range.
  • Lane-departure warnings – If you’re swerving between or crossing a lane without using a turn signal, your car alerts you with a visual or audio signal.
  • Lane-keeping assist: This corrective steering and braking feature automatically activates when you’re crossing lane markings.
  • Adaptive cruise control – When you need to maintain a safer following distance, this feature adapts to the traffic ahead, even coming to a complete stop when you’re in heavy traffic. As such, the driver doesn’t have to turn the cruise control on and off. Instead, just watch ahead and steer.
  • Adaptive headlights – Considered a supplement to standard headlights, these adjust to your speed and direction and move 15 degrees up or down. For drivers, this feature can expand your vehicle’s view by up to 80 degrees, gives you better side vision and allows you to see objects ahead.
  • Voice-activated texting – Considered a questionable safety feature, this hands-free technology lets you send a text from your car’s voice-activation system without having to pick up your smartphone. While auto manufacturers introduced such technology to initially combat phone-related distracted driving, studies have shown they can slow your reaction time and may create a mental distraction.
  • Backup cameras – The blind spot right behind your car contributes to roughly 292 deaths per year. Especially on larger vehicles, a backup camera shows you what’s hiding from sight.

Impact on Your Driving

Based on a 2009 IIHS study, vehicles with a standard forward-collision warning system have seven-percent fewer crashes. For those with automatic braking, that figure is cut to 15 percent. Also, other IIHS data shows that drivers feel safer with these systems in place and 20 to 50 percent of vehicle owners avoided a crash.

Another study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that drivers of Acura and Mercedes-Benz cars with both forward-collision warning and automatic braking features filed 14 percent fewer insurance claims for property damage. The same study, in comparing cars with adaptive and standard headlights, found that drivers with the former filed 10 percent fewer claims.

While these findings show promise, it’s important to note that the best strategy against getting into an accident is staying alert and following the rules of the road.

No matter how safe, there’s always a chance that a driver may get into an accident. If you’re faced with mounting medical bills and an insurance company that won’t help, Trantolo & Trantolo is on your side. To speak with a car accident lawyer about your claim, reach out to us today.