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Evaluating vehicle safety features

The constant upgrades in safety technology manufacturers are adding to their vehicles may prompt you to consider a new car every couple of years to make sure you and your passengers have the lowest risk of an accident. Some systems have a better track record than others, though, and some could even pose a distraction rather than a help.

Warning systems

Even though you may be the most attentive driver on the road, you cannot always catch every traffic cue or account for other drivers' careless or aggressive behaviors. Most vehicle warning systems are designed to catch the things you miss and alert you to them. These include the following:

  • Vehicles in your blind spots
  • Objects, vehicles or people in front of you
  • Vehicles moving into your path as you back up
  • Lane departure

The actual warning you receive could be a vibration in the steering wheel or seat, a noise or a flashing light, or your vehicle may prompt you with a combination of haptic, audible and visual alerts.

While most of these do have some safety benefit, they do not generally hold up to expectations. Researchers warn that you should not rely on these systems too heavily, or allow them to take the place of your regular safety precautions, such as doing a mirror and head check of your blind spots when you merge or change lanes and keeping your hands on the wheel at all times.

Automatic systems

When you are not reacting quickly enough, some safety technology takes over. Adaptive cruise control keeps you the appropriate distance from the vehicle in front of you, and emergency braking prevents a rear-end crash, or at least lessens the impact. There are also active steering programs that detect lane markings and keep you within them.

Electronic stability control

While other features may or may not appeal to you, one that you should have, according to the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety , is electronic stability control. ESC prevents you from losing control of your steering when you have to perform an extreme evasive maneuver, such as swerving to miss a sudden traffic situation directly in front of you. The system applies brakes to one or more of the wheels as needed to keep you from spinning off the road or into another vehicle.

No matter how many safety features your car has, it may not be able to counteract a situation involving a drunk or distracted driver. An attorney may be able to help you deal with the steps you should take to receive the compensation you are entitled to by law.

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