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Why Some Car Safety Features Count While Others Don’t

Educational  ·  June 2, 2020

Why Some Car Safety Features Count While Others Don’t

In simpler times, a buyer would consider basic things like a car's style, its performance, and maybe even the number of cupholders it has inside. These days though, marketing experts in the automotive industry have made that process much more difficult for buyers like us. Now, we need to consider way too many features before picking a car.

What do you look for when buying a car? 

Aside from the stuff mentioned earlier, dealerships vie for car buyers' attention by highlighting the array of safety features built-in their models. Some of these features sound familiar, such as ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), while there are novel ones that not everyone knows about, like Volvo’s heart sensor, for instance.

ABS, airbags, and other basic safety features are important, no one would argue with that. The problem lately is that car companies have gotten a little too creative with their safety features and the way they promote them. Some features are absolute necessities, while others belong in the nice-to-have category (rather than need-to-have). Companies market them with fancy-sounding names and acronyms all around, making the features stand out and seem more important than they actually might be. 

So, do car safety features really increase safety? For the most part, the answer is ‘Yes’, and researchers have published studies to prove it. For instance, a study in France points to a significant improvement in road safety as a result of ‘enhanced vehicle safety technologies’.

What car safety features must your car have?

There seems to be an endless list of safety features out there. So, let's look at examples of safety features that matter, and reasons why some might not be worth the price tag.

Anti-Lock Braking System

First, let's take a look at the ABS that this article has mentioned a few times already. Imagine this: in an emergency on the road, your first instinct is to step on the brakes as hard as you can. This is a natural reaction, but it is problematic. Whenever you do that, you cause your tyres to suddenly 'lock' up. They lose any tractive contact on the road and cause your car to skid. Add this to the instinct to try and steer away from danger, and you might end up skidding all over the place.

The ABS prevents this from happening. No matter how hard you press on the brakes, the system will stop your wheels from locking and prevent skidding. This way, your tyres will be able to maintain traction and do their job to bring your car to a complete stop.

Without a doubt, this is a crucial car safety feature which is why it's so common.

Rear Vision Camera, Parking Assist, and Automatic Reverse Braking

Another group of features that truly counts when it comes to keeping you safe are those related to reversing. For this point, we're talking about things like rear vision cameras, parking assist, and automatic reverse braking.

No matter how good of a driver you are, the fact remains that reversing your vehicle is a risky manoeuvre. You don't have a clear line of sight to everything behind you, and it's hard to tell if something suddenly enters your reverse path. Even if you do notice something suddenly in that path, such as a small child, for instance, your reaction time may not be as quick as you need it to be. It could lead to a nightmare scenario, especially if there's a child involved.

That's where these car safety features can indeed be lifesavers. A rear-vision camera helps you see as much of your car's rearview as possible, definitely more than what you could see with your own eyes from the driver's seat. Add a parking assist system to that, and you'll glide right into your parking spot smoothly and swiftly. This is great because it minimises your time of being in reverse, and thereby reduces the risks involved with it.

If the car has automatic reverse braking, that's even better. As mentioned earlier, your reaction time when reversing could be too slow to avoid hitting someone who suddenly walks into your path. An automatic reverse braking system could do it much quicker, stopping your car and preventing any injuries.

Forward Automatic Braking and Forward Collision Alert

Forward-facing systems, like collision alert and automatic braking, are much more straightforward (no pun intended!). They work the same way as the systems mentioned above for reversing. 

Basically, if you're rolling down the road and danger suddenly presents itself, the system will warn you of a potential collision. If your reaction is too slow, an automatic braking system can take over in a split second and slow your vehicle down to a complete halt however quickly it needs to do that. 

Without a doubt, these kinds of safety features are essential.

Why some car safety features don't really count

Believe it or not, some car safety features aren't as beneficial as they sound. Critics will go as far as saying that some even make driving more difficult and dangerous. Even insurance companies will refuse to lower their rates for cars that have these safety features, which is counter-intuitive. So, what's the deal here?

First and foremost, always remember that even the most high-tech safety features will not override a person's human nature when driving. Any safety system that distracts a driver or gives them a false sense of safety is counterproductive and can be dangerous.

Second, some safety features are problematic. Take, for example, lighting features like automatic steering headlights and intelligent headlamps. They're often marketed as a way to increase your night-time driving safety. However, they may not be as reliable as you need them to be. 

Remember that at night, you need the road and as much of your surroundings as possible to be well-lit. Automated lighting systems may turn or lower your headlights unexpectedly, catching you by surprise and failing to illuminate dangers on the road.

Finally, if you're paying for safety features just because you think they'll reduce your insurance premiums, you might want to think again. Some safety features do indeed reduce premiums, but not all of them. 

How safety features affect insurance premiums 

Look at it from the perspective of the insurance companies. If you damage your bumper in a collision, your insurance company might have to pay a couple of hundred dollars to replace it for you. However, if your bumper has fancy sensors or other safety feature-related devices on it, they'll have to fork out much more cash to pay for it. So, to put it simply, when it comes to some safety features, it's not in the best interest of the insurance companies to encourage you to have them.

Let me be clear: insurance companies will usually lower premiums for car safety features that actually keep the vehicle safe. They may be less inclined to do so for 'safety features' that cost more to replace than the value of the protection they offer. To be sure, speak to your insurance provider and find out which safety features have the effect of lowering the insurance lower premiums.

One way to improve your car’s safety is to ensure that it has no damaged parts, and if there are, they should be replaced and repaired by qualified mechanics and automotive specialists. If you’re looking for car professionals, you may find them in CarPart’s directory. Now, if you need auto parts, feel free to use our car part finding tool at no cost to you. 

By Ray Hasbollah

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