Vehicle safety features you should know about – and how to use them


Vehicle safety features change fast.

So fast, in fact, that you might find it difficult to keep pace.

Forward collision prevention; braking, tire pressure and anti-rollover; driver monitoring and communication; parking and backing assist, and lane and side assist, the categories alone are enough to get your head spinning – let alone the technologies they comprise.

“Nearly every car on the road today has safety features that can help drivers be safer,” according to MyCarDoesWhat.org, a collaboration of the National Safety Council and University of Iowa. “You may already know some of these, [but] some you may not even realize your car has.”

Vehicle safety features

To make the subject of vehicle safety features more complicated, “many of these new safety features are not yet standardized,” especially if you’re driving an older car as are millions of Americans.

For example, your vehicle probably has an anti-lock braking system, but does it have complementary technology such as traction control or electronic stability control? If you are able to answer that question you may be better informed than the majority of vehicle owners.

Of course, it’s important to become familiar with the owner’s manual for your specific vehicle. But MyCarDoesWhat.org provides a comprehensive guide to help you keep pace with vehicle technology.

For example, MyCarDoesWhat.org covers in detail forward collision prevention, comprising collision prevention and mitigation (ranging from anti-lock braking, forward collision warning, and pedestrian, bicycle and obstacle detection), speeding (curve speed warning and high speed alert), cruise control (adaptive cruise control), and headlights and vision (adaptive headlights) technology.

Another category, braking, tire pressure and anti-rollover comprises braking and anti-rollover (anti-lock braking, automatic emergency braking, brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control), terrain and wheel information (tire pressure monitoring system and temperature warning) and hill assisting (hill descent assist and hill start assist) technologies.

There’s a lot to track if you’re looking for the latest in vehicle safety features.

But beyond knowing what technology is available, understanding what it can and cannot do also plays an important role in whether or not you actually are safer in your vehicle.

In the case of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), for example, “80 percent of drivers with blind spot monitoring were unaware of limitations or incorrectly believed the system could accurately detect vehicles passing at very high speeds or bicycles and pedestrians,” according to a survey by the University of Iowa commissioned and reported by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. ADAS comprises technology such as blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist.

MyCarDoesWhat.org makes clear the capabilities of a blind spot monitoring by describing how it works and cautioning that it “may not detect motorcycles or very fast moving vehicles … This is why you should always look over your shoulders to check your blind spots before making a lane change.”

“Findings from this new research show that there is still a lot of work to be done in educating drivers about proper use of ADAS technologies and their limitations,” said a AAA foundation spokesman.