We learned this week that the average age of cars on the road in America hit a record 11.5 years. That also tells us that there are a lot of 20-year-old cars out there, and it prompted me to think of the safety changes that have come about since most of these cars were assembled. There are many, but here are some of my favorites, and options I personally look for when considering a car.
Blind Spot Monitoring: How many times have you almost changed lanes into a car that was hiding in your blind spot? This is especially true for drivers of 2-door cars. Blind Spot monitoring warns you by lights and sounds not to change lanes when you turn your blinker on. This is a must-have option for me.
Adaptive Cruise Control: This is a very handy feature for people who do a lot of highway driving. Sensors and radar monitor the speed of the vehicle in front of you and keeps you at a constant distance at all times. If your cruise is set to 70, your car will hold at 70 unless the vehicle in front of you slows down, then your vehicle will slow down too.
Hill Descent Control: This system makes it easier to descend steep inclines. They typically work by activating the brakes to automatically slow the vehicle, which works through the same basic mechanism that allows brakes and traction-control, and other technologies to function. Some hill descent control systems allow the speed to be modified via the cruise control system, and they can typically be overridden by pressing either the brake or the accelerator. This is becoming a popular feature on upper-end off-road vehicles.
Lane Departure Warning: Sensors monitor where your vehicle is in a lane. Should you veer out of the lane, without the use of your turn signal, the vehicle warns you with a sound, or in some cases, with a vibration of the seat. If you are not one that signals lane changes, this system will train you to do so, or drive you crazy.
Backup Sensors and Cameras: Not only do these systems help you avoid accidents, they save lives and are getting more sophisticated every year. Sensors beep to warn you of people or objects behind you. Cameras today can give you multiple views of what is behind you, project lines that show you where you are going, and even give you an overhead view. Many camera systems allow you a cross-view when backing into traffic blindly.
Electronic Stability Control: ESC is designed to help the driver maintain control in a variety of circumstances. The main function of ECS is to compare the driver’s inputs with the behavior of the vehicle. If one of these systems determines that the vehicle isn’t responding correctly, it can take a number of corrective actions. For instance, if it detects either over-steer or under-steer when a vehicle is taking a corner, it is typically capable of activating one or more brake calipers to correct the situation. Systems like this are terrific for SUVs to mitigate rollover accidents.
Other not so common systems: Today, you can get night vision is some cars which allows you to see people and animals in the dark with thermal imaging. Automatic braking will apply the brakes for you, to a complete stop if necessary, if your car senses a collision is imminent. There are even systems that can determine if you are getting drowsy and warn you to pull over and rest.
If you are one of the people who is driving a car more than 10 years old, when you do decide to get yourself a new set of wheels, you will be much safer than in the past.