What Vehicle Safety Features Should You Have (And Avoid) In A New Car?

Compare cars of today with makes and models from 30 years ago, and you’ll notice that even though they often look the same — in the four doors, four wheels sense — they’re quite different, especially on the inside. Recently, Nationwide looked at some of the technologies that have found their way into the modern vehicle. The goal of the assessment was to determine which developments are genuinely helpful and which ones are actually no safer than before. Here’s what they found:


Voice-Activated Texts

According to Nationwide, this one should be avoided. The reason, in the company’s own words: “Phone related driving accidents are responsible for a growing number of car crashes. Texting while driving is the number one offender, but taking your eyes off the road for any reason is extremely hazardous. Hands-free phone technology that allows you to keep your eyes on the road may seem like an advance in car safety, but studies have shown that voice activation systems cause mental distractions that can slow down a driver’s reaction times.”


Front Crash Prevention Systems

Nationwide took a nicer tone with Front Crash Prevention systems. These will actually alert the driver when a crash is imminent and automatically apply brakes so to avoid the accident. “New crash avoidance technologies, such as front crash prevention, are already reducing the number of insurance claims from at-fault drivers,” the company explained. “This safety feature is quickly becoming an available option in all new cars, but it can vary in effectiveness.”

Nationwide suggests checking the make and model of the car you’re considering before making a purchase. This can be done on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety ratings website.


Lane Departure Warning Systems

A Lane Departure Warning system, like Front Crash Prevention, can actually relinquish some control to the car so that if you’re leaving your lane without a signal, the car will automatically “correct” itself by easing back to the center of the lane. While Nationwide found this technology generally helpful, the company did issue the following warning: “It might sound like a self-driving car, but the steering wheel movements are very subtle and can be overridden at any time.”

Clearly, this still allows for human error, but since it’s automatic, it’s not the distraction of Voice-Activated Texting.


Rain-Sensing Wipers

Windshield wipers are two parts that drivers take for granted until they’re in a situation where they’re needed and not working. New rain-sensing wipers will automatically activate the wipers whenever certain levels of moisture are detected. Sounds very 21st Century, yes, but color Nationwide unimpressed: “With the flick of the wrist, windshield wipers are as easy to operate as power windows. Rain sensing wipers use infrared lights to detect if your windshield glass is dry — something the human eye can do just fine. If you aren’t able to spot when it’s raining, you probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place.”


Touch-Screen Controls

You had to know when the company knocked Voice-Activated Texting that it wouldn’t be on board with Touch-Screen Controls. For starters, these systems require the driver to take their eyes off the road to operate. “Touch screen car controls can be difficult to use and some even come with highly distracting features like an integrated web browser,” Nationwide states. “Limited touch screen functionality, like GPS, can be useful, but conventional knobs and buttons may make it easier for you to keep your eyes on the road.”


Backup Cameras

Last but not least, Nationwide gave its seal of approval to Backup Cameras that allow a driver to see what’s in their blind spots. “Cameras that allow you to see what’s in the blind spot behind your car are useful for parking, but more importantly they can save a life,” the company points out. “Accidents that result from backing up cause an average of 292 deaths per year. Backup cameras are especially useful on larger vehicles, such as SUVs, where the blind spot might be large enough to hide a small child from your view.”


In Summary

While technology may be a wonderful thing, even good can go bad when you have too much of it. Don’t fall in with every piece of tech in hopes that it will improve your safety rating. The new Nationwide release gives some insight into how companies really see each technology. Consult it before buying your next new car.

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