For the average driver, it can be intimidating getting into a new car. There is so much more technology at your fingertip that is designed to help you drive more safely.
There are buttons on the steering wheel, above the armrest, plus the touch command tablet on the dash. A newer car has your back – if you take the time to learn all the safety features.
“There has been an incredible advancement in safety technology in vehicles available to the average driver in the last 32 years I have been a driving instructor,” says Angelo DiCicco, director of operations at Young Drivers of Canada’s, Advanced Driving Centre.
It is keeping families safer, he says, helping to avoid collisions and making the damage caused by a collision far less serious.
DiCicco trains drivers of different ages (one of his clients is 93). When asked about ranking safety features, adaptive cruise control is No. 1 on his list. “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” he says.
Adaptive cruise control tops the list
Adaptive cruise control automatically adjusts your vehicle speed so you can keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you while on the highway. It also helps in stop-and-go traffic when the mind tends to wander. A student of DiCicco found herself in this situation when she smashed her new BMW M3 into a car in front of her. She later told DiCicco that if she had better understood the adaptive cruise control on her car and had it turned on, the accident may not have happened.
Jason Campbell, general manager of the Canadian International Auto Show, has the best seat in the house when it comes to what the car companies are rolling out. The Auto Show had its second-highest attendance number over 10 days in February 2019 – 357,745 people. The show attracts all the major car companies. Technology is more widely available now and is increasingly available in affordable vehicles.
A 2018 recent Consumer Reports study found there was a 43 per cent reduction in accidents in the United States with GM cars that had an automatic braking system and forward collision warning technology. Injuries fell by 64 per cent.
“Pretty hard to argue with those numbers,” Campbell says.
When shopping for a new car
With all the newer safety features, Campbell and DiCicco agree on the same thing: Focus on your driving habits first.
If you are more a city driver, look for:
- Blind spot alert/assist. This is great for changing lanes.
- Intelligent parking assist and birds’ eye cameras with 360-degree visibility of your vehicle. This is great for those tight, underground condo parking lot challenges.
- Rear cross-traffic alert/assist. This is where the car either sounds an alarm or stops outright if a cyclist or pedestrian crosses your path while backing up.
If you drive a lot on highways, look for:
- Adaptive cruise control.
- Lane departure alerts, where the car warns you if have moved into the other lane.
- Pre-collision braking systems, where the car will stop itself.
If you have kids entering their driving years, focus on technologies that:
- Limit speed.
- Limit speaker sound levels.
- Report on how they have braked or accelerated.
Did you know that many new cars now have technologies that feature voice command? There are also mobile technologies that allow you to connect to your car’s features remotely.
Just remember, cars are not fully autonomous yet!
Research shows that with new technologies, drivers are more likely to take risks around distraction and fatigue, assuming that the car will alert them to problems and so might not be as careful when driving. “Still, I want those safety features on my car because I want to be safe,” says Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the non-profit Traffic Injury Research Foundation.
Your brain is your most important safety feature, she says. Drivers need to be alert, even with the safety features. They need to be able to react quickly.
Lead image Ford Edge courtesy Ford Canada