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Best Car Safety Features

Best Car Safety Features

Despite major improvements in vehicle safety technology over the past few decades, car accidents remain a leading cause of injury and death around the world. In Canada alone, there are over 165,000 motor vehicle collisions resulting in serious injuries or fatalities each year. The impact of these crashes on individuals, families, and society is devastating.


However, emerging vehicle safety features that can actively help drivers avoid collisions before they occur offer new hope for reducing accidents and saving lives. Known as crash avoidance or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), these technologies use cameras, radar, sensors and computing power to detect dangerous situations and take actions like automatic braking when a driver does not respond in time.


While ADAS cannot eliminate all accidents caused by human error and unpredictable road conditions, they have the potential to compensate for the limits of human perception and reflexes. If widely implemented, advanced crash avoidance features could make a major dent in the number of car crashes, preventing thousands of deaths and life-altering injuries every year. This article will provide an overview of the most promising ADAS technologies and discuss strategies for broader adoption to maximize their safety benefits.

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Forward Collision Warning

Forward collision warning systems are an important crash avoidance feature in modern vehicles. These systems use radar sensors or cameras mounted near the front grille or windshield to continuously scan for obstacles in the vehicle’s path. When the system detects that your vehicle is rapidly approaching another car, object, or pedestrian, it will provide an audible, visual, and/or haptic alert to notify you to brake. This gives you extra time to react and can prevent a potential rear-end collision.

Forward collision warning alerts are typically activated when the system calculates that a crash is imminent if immediate action is not taken, often at speeds above 15 mph. The warnings get more intense the closer you get to an obstacle, escalating from flashing lights or icons to beeping sounds and seat vibrations. Some systems even precharge the brakes or begin automatic braking if the driver does not respond to alerts. This technology aims to compensate for distracted, drowsy, or otherwise inattentive driving when a driver fails to see slowed or stopped traffic ahead.

Research shows that forward collision warning systems can prevent up to 7% of all rear-end crashes, which represent over 1,700 fatalities and more than 400,000 injuries in the U.S. each year. These systems are especially effective at reducing rear-end crashes into stopped vehicles. Widespread adoption of forward collision warning could save hundreds or even thousands of lives annually. Overall, these sensors and alerts provide an extra safeguard to help avoid one of the most common types of accidents.

 

Automatic Emergency Braking

One of the most advanced crash avoidance technologies is automatic emergency braking (AEB). This system uses sensors such as radar, cameras, and lasers to detect when a forward collision is imminent. If the driver does not take action, the AEB system can automatically apply the brakes to mitigate the impact or avoid the crash entirely.

There are different types of AEB systems designed for different driving scenarios. Low-speed AEB operates at city speeds and is meant to prevent common rear-end collisions. High-speed AEB activates at freeway speeds and brakes for stopped or slower-moving vehicles ahead. Pedestrian detection AEB can identify people in or near the roadway and brake when a collision appears likely.

Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and others have found AEB can reduce rear-end crashes by 40-50%. These systems are especially effective at mitigating low-speed impacts in stop-and-go traffic. As AEB technology continues to advance, even more collision types could potentially be avoided.

 

Lane Keeping Assist

Lane keeping assist is an advanced driver assistance system that uses cameras mounted near the rearview mirror to continuously monitor road markings on each side of the vehicle. When the system detects the car is drifting out of its lane unintentionally, it provides gentle steering input to guide the car back between the lines.

This technology helps prevent accidents caused by distracted, drowsy or inattentive drivers who fail to keep their vehicle centered in the lane. The cameras have image recognition software that can identify painted lane lines, reflective road markers, and even the edge of the pavement. If the driver begins drifting towards these boundaries without using a turn signal, lane keeping assist will nudge the steering to stay on course.

The steering corrections from lane keeping assist are subtle, but help the driver avoid dangerous lane departures or run-off-the-road crashes. This feature does not drive the car autonomously, but provides a safety net if the driver’s attention wanders. The driver can easily override the steering adjustments. Lane keeping assist is designed to be a helpful aid, not intrusive.

 

Blind Spot Monitoring

Blind spot monitoring is an important crash avoidance feature that alerts drivers to vehicles located in their blind spots. All vehicles have blind spots – areas around the vehicle that are difficult or impossible to see from the driver’s seat. The blind spots are located on both sides of the vehicle, near the rear corners. They occur because the vehicle’s roof pillars, rear-view mirrors, and other components block the driver’s view.

Blind spot monitoring uses sensors such as radar or ultrasonic sensors to detect other vehicles that enter and occupy these hard-to-see areas. When a vehicle is detected, the system will activate a visual, audible, or haptic warning to alert the driver. This could be a flashing light in the side mirror, an audible alert, or a vibration in the steering wheel or seat.

By providing information about vehicles in the blind spots, blind spot monitoring helps prevent dangerous lane changes. Drivers attempt lane changes without properly checking their blind spots all the time, often leading to serious sideswipe crashes. Blind spot monitoring compensates for these natural human errors and oversights. The warnings make drivers aware of hidden hazards before changing lanes, allowing them to avoid collisions.

 

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Another important crash avoidance feature is rear cross traffic alert. This system helps prevent dangerous backup collisions by warning drivers about approaching perpendicular traffic when they are reversing out of a parking space or driveway.

Rear cross traffic alert uses radar sensors mounted in the rear bumper to detect vehicles coming from the side. When you shift into reverse, it monitors the areas on either side that are often hidden in your vehicle’s blind spots. If another car is rapidly approaching from the left or right, the system will issue an audible alert and visual warning.

This technology provides an extra set of eyes when backing up, which is a common accident scenario. Vehicles equipped with rear cross traffic alert are less likely to back into objects or other cars. It gives drivers critical time to stop before colliding with crossing traffic they may not see behind them. Overall, rear cross traffic alert significantly improves safety when driving in reverse.

 

Benefits of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Studies show vehicles equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have roughly 40% fewer crashes than vehicles without these technologies. ADAS features compensate for mistakes that human drivers routinely make, like becoming distracted or drowsy behind the wheel. They are especially helpful in dangerous situations where the driver’s focus may be compromised.

These systems have the potential to save thousands of lives each year by avoiding collisions or reducing their severity. While drivers will never be perfect, ADAS can step in when we make an error that could lead to an accident. The data shows that integrating this technology broadly into the vehicle fleet could produce major reductions in injuries and fatalities on the road.

 

Implementing Crash Avoidance More Broadly

While crash avoidance features are becoming more common in new vehicles, retrofitting the existing vehicle fleet will produce the greatest gains in safety. Many automakers now include basic systems like automatic emergency braking as standard equipment. However, there are over 280 million vehicles on U.S. roads that lack these potentially lifesaving technologies.

To accelerate adoption, governments could mandate that all new vehicles be equipped with a minimum set of advanced driver assistance systems. Another approach is offering financial incentives or tax credits to consumers who add crash avoidance features to older vehicles. Insurance companies could also provide discounts on premiums for policyholders with ADAS-equipped cars.

Consumer education campaigns can highlight the benefits of advanced crash avoidance technologies. Drivers may not be aware of how features like blind spot monitoring and automatic braking provide an extra margin of safety. Demonstrating how ADAS works and how it could prevent common accident scenarios may motivate more vehicle owners to consider upgrading their safety packages.

 

Connected Vehicle Technology

Connected vehicle technology allows cars to communicate with each other and with roadway infrastructure like traffic signals. This type of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication has the potential to provide earlier and more advanced warnings about potential collisions.

For example, if a car suddenly brakes ahead, V2V communication could instantly notify the cars behind even before they have a visual on the braking vehicle. This extra split-second of warning time allows the other cars to begin slowing down sooner and avoids the accordion effect of late braking.

In addition, connected vehicles can receive warnings about hazards around blind corners or just over hills via V2I messages from smart traffic signals. These notifications help drivers anticipate risks they cannot yet see.

However, realizing the full safety benefits of connected vehicle technology requires widespread adoption along with infrastructure improvements. Most existing roads lack the V2I equipment needed to transmit warnings. But ongoing testing and development of connected vehicle systems aims to unlock their potential to prevent collisions in the future.

 

Consumer Education

Many drivers are still unaware of the capabilities of advanced driver assistance systems and how these technologies can improve safety. Consumer education campaigns are needed to promote proper use and understanding of ADAS features. According to surveys, over half of vehicle owners do not fully grasp available safety aids in their own cars. Drivers cannot benefit from crash avoidance tools if they do not comprehend them or fail to use them appropriately.

Dealerships have an important role to play in explaining ADAS capabilities to customers at the point of vehicle purchase. Sales associates should demonstrate the technologies, ensure owners understand functionality, and convey the significant safety advantages. New car buyers often receive only a brief overview of complex driver aids like automatic emergency braking or lane keeping assist. More detailed tutorials could lead to higher consumer adoption. Partnerships with automakers could produce educational materials and programs specifically geared toward maximizing the safety potential of ADAS.

Public awareness campaigns can also promote smarter use of crash avoidance features. Media messaging through channels like social networks, television, and streaming services could showcase real-world examples of ADAS preventing collisions. Hands-on driving demonstrations at public events would likewise give motorists first-hand experience with advanced safety systems. The goal is for drivers to learn proper activation, capabilities, and limitations in order to trust these technologies.

 

Insurance Incentives

Insurance companies can play an important role in encouraging drivers to purchase vehicles equipped with advanced safety features. Many insurers now offer discounts on premiums for ADAS-equipped vehicles, providing a financial incentive for consumers to choose safety.

For example, some insurers offer up to 10% off premiums for vehicles with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and other crash avoidance technologies. Usage-based insurance programs that track driving habits can also integrate ADAS verification, further rewarding safe driving behavior.

Insurance incentives promote voluntary adoption of vehicle safety equipment. Drivers who take advantage of discounts will experience direct savings on their car insurance. This positive reinforcement can help increase public acceptance and normalize new vehicle technologies.

With insurance discounts, drivers are empowered to upgrade to safer cars while benefiting financially. Implementing ADAS incentives across the insurance industry will encourage widespread safety feature deployment without mandates or regulation.

 

Government Regulation

Government regulation will play a crucial role in accelerating the adoption of advanced driver assistance systems. Mandates requiring these safety technologies as standard equipment on new vehicles can ensure that all the latest models have life-saving crash avoidance capabilities. For example, the European Union now requires all new cars to have autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, and other ADAS features. The United States has been slower to adopt such mandates, but the potential for thousands of lives saved makes a compelling case.

However, the greatest safety gains will come from equipping the existing vehicle fleet with ADAS. Retrofit mandates could require these driver aids on older vehicles. Gradual phase-in based on model year would allow time for automakers and suppliers to meet demand. Targeting higher risk vehicles like large trucks first makes sense. Still, sweeping retrofit requirements may face political opposition due to cost concerns. More limited mandates for commercial fleets could be an interim step. Insurer discounts, tax credits, and other incentives can defray expenses for consumers.

While government regulation will encounter resistance, the enormous potential to reduce injuries and fatalities justifies persistence. Refining requirements and phasing them in gradually can balance safety goals and economic realities. With thoughtful policies, mandates on new vehicles and targeted retrofitting of existing cars can usher in an era of much safer roads.

 

ADAS Limitations

While advanced driver assistance systems have demonstrated their ability to help avoid crashes, it’s important to understand they are not foolproof. There are still limitations to the technology in its current state of development.

A key aspect to understand is that these systems are designed to assist and alert drivers, not automate all aspects of driving. Human drivers still need to remain fully engaged and pay attention to the road when using ADAS features. Over-reliance on the technology can lead to dangerous situations.

Additionally, most ADAS features rely on cameras, radar and other sensors to detect obstacles and lane markings. Inclement weather like heavy rain, snow or fog can impair the ability of these sensors to properly perceive the environment. This can lead to degraded performance of crash avoidance aids when they are needed most.

There are also scenarios like snow-covered lane lines that ADAS systems still struggle to handle. While the technology is rapidly improving, drivers still need to be ready to take control and override the vehicle assistance features when necessary.

Overall, advanced crash avoidance tools lead to increased safety, but don’t completely remove the human responsibility of driving. Ongoing improvements to make the technology more robust will help ADAS get closer to realizing its full lifesaving potential in the years ahead.

 

The Future of Vehicle Safety

While advanced driver assistance systems have already begun reducing accidents, even more promising vehicle safety technologies are on the horizon.

Fully autonomous vehicles that can drive themselves are getting closer to reality every year. Once perfected, self-driving cars have the potential to eliminate human error collisions altogether. Major automakers and tech companies like Tesla, Waymo and GM Cruise are making rapid progress in developing and testing autonomous driving systems. Although some regulatory and infrastructure hurdles remain, many experts predict fully driverless cars will be available to consumers before 2030.

The aftermarket for advanced driver aids is also expected to grow substantially. As the components get cheaper, more affordable ADAS products will enable drivers to upgrade existing vehicles. Companies are already producing aftermarket systems with lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and other safety features. Being able to retrofit older models will help accelerate adoption of crash prevention technologies.

In addition, existing ADAS capabilities will continue to improve through enhanced sensors, faster data processing and more sophisticated algorithms. For example, automatic emergency braking systems are becoming better at detecting pedestrians and cyclists. And lane keeping assist is getting smoother and less intrusive on the driving experience. Refinements like these will make advanced driver aids more effective and more widely accepted.

 

Conclusion

In summary, advanced driver assistance systems like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking have tremendous potential to reduce accidents and save lives. These technologies use sensors and cameras to detect dangerous situations and take action if the driver does not respond in time. Studies show vehicles equipped with ADAS have roughly 40% fewer crashes compared to unequipped cars.

While the first fully self-driving vehicles may still be years away from mass adoption, existing ADAS features can prevent many common accidents caused by human error. Widespread implementation of these driver aids on new vehicles as well as existing cars on the road would produce major safety gains.

Governments should mandate ADAS for all new vehicles. Consumer education campaigns and insurance discounts can also promote retrofitting older vehicles. With a multi-pronged approach, advanced crash avoidance technology could make driving vastly safer in the near future.

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Questions About Car Safety Features

Some of the most important car safety features that are standard or available in Canada include airbags, electronic stability control (ESC), automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW) systems, backup cameras, blindspot monitoring systems, lane departure warning systems, and more. These features can help prevent accidents or reduce the severity of crashes when they do occur. Many of these safety technologies are increasingly standard on new vehicles in Canada.



Some top recommended safety features for dealing with Canada’s harsh winters include all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, winter tires, antilock brakes (ABS), traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), forward collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB). These features improve handling and braking on snow and ice and can help prevent loss of control or collisions. Heated seats, steering wheels, wiper blades and mirrors also increase comfort and visibility.

Yes, as of May 2018, backup cameras became mandatory on all new light-duty vehicles under 10,000 lbs sold in Canada. Having a backup camera improves visibility behind the vehicle and helps prevent tragic backover accidents, especially with children and pets. Most mainstream vehicles have come standard with backup cameras since around 2014.



Blindspot monitoring systems use sensors to detect vehicles in your blindspots and provide a visual, audible or haptic warning if you try to change lanes when another vehicle is next to you. This helps prevent dangerous sideswipe or lane change collisions. Blindspot monitoring is increasingly common on mainstream models in Canada, often bundled with rear cross traffic alert systems in affordable package deals. Most automakers offer it standard or as an option.

Yes, electronic stability control (ESC) has been federally mandated as a standard feature on all new light passenger vehicles in Canada since the 2012 model year. ESC uses automated braking of individual wheels to help drivers maintain control if their car starts to skid or slide. It’s one of the most significant safety advances in recent decades, preventing many types of crashes.

Forward collision warning (FCW) systems use cameras, radar or other sensors to detect slower moving or stopped vehicles ahead, warning drivers of an impending collision so they have more time to react. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) builds on this by automatically applying the brakes if it senses an imminent frontal crash and the driver hasn’t braked enough yet themselves. These overlapping technologies can prevent accidents or reduce their severity.

Some models highly regarded for their safety feature availability in Canada include the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Ford Escape. These mainstream models offer the latest safety technologies in affordable trim levels, though high-end luxury vehicles also boast exceptional safety.



Yes, although no vehicle can guarantee safety, large pickup trucks and SUVs on average provide increased protection over smaller vehicles due to more mass, higher ground clearance, all-wheel drive traction, and robust frames and bodies. However, they are more prone to rollover crashes, have larger blindspots, and braking/handling is compromised. No vehicle eliminates all crash risks.

Some of safest rated family vehicles combine top crash test results with abundant standard advanced safety features. These include the Subaru Ascent, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Kia Telluride, Genesis GV80, Volvo XC90, Mercedes Benz GLE-Class, and Tesla Model Y and Model X. Midsize SUVs and minivans tend to score very well safety-wise.

Some mainstream affordable vehicles offering exceptional safety tech availability in Canada are the Honda Civic, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Volkswagen Jetta and Golf, Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester and Ford Escape. Typically starting around $25,000 or less, these models make safety very accessible.

Some emerging and recently introduced safety technologies with promise include intersection assist and left turn crash prevention systems, driver monitoring systems to combat distraction and impairment, expanded automatic emergency braking for additional crash scenarios, night vision enhancement, rear seat occupant alert and detection systems, expanded camera views including “transparent pillar” visuals, and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications.

The best places to research safety ratings and feature availability by make and model are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 5-star safety ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick designations which includes crash tests, and the individual automakers’ websites, which outline standard and optional safety tech by trim level. Vehicle reviews can also be insightful.

It’s important not to rely too heavily on safety features in place of engaged, focused driving. They are designed to assist drivers, not replace them. Always pay attention to the road, allow ample following distance, reduce distractions and don’t assume a crash can be prevented or injury eliminated. Check your owner’s manual so you understand proper system functionality and limitations.

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule and service recommendations, keep software/firmware updated to the latest version, clean camera lenses/sensors regularly, replace worn components like brake pads promptly, ensure tires are properly inflated, don’t overload electrical systems with excessive accessories, and have collision repairs and calibrations done by qualified, certified professionals to factory standards to avoid compromising safety system performance.

Yes, aftermarket modifications like lift kits, oversize tires, tinted windows and obscured camera/sensor views can negatively impact the performance of vehicle safety systems. The cameras, radar and other sensors feeding these systems are precisely calibrated by automakers. Any deviations from factory specifications can keep life-saving features like automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control from working properly.



Typically no, most advanced safety features that assist in crash prevention actually qualify for insurance discounts from providers in Canada. Features like automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane departure warning (LDW), and blind spot information systems (BLIS) are viewed very favorably by insurance companies due to their loss prevention benefits. Always inquire about discounts.

While the latest innovations debut on brand new models, even vehicles just 2-3 years old can have today’s top safety tech, as automakers rapidly adopt emerging features to stay competitive. For example, a typical 2019-2020 model year vehicle often has abundant features that weren’t widely available just a few years earlier. Carefully research trim levels and options for the year you’re considering.

All modern safety features provide some benefit to rear seat occupants, but those offering specific back seat advantages include front airbags that provide rearward protection, standard head-protecting side curtain airbags, seat belt pretensioners and force limiters, rear outboard LATCH anchors for child seats, rear door child safety locks, and some automatic emergency braking systems can detect pedestrians or cyclists approaching from the rear.

Yes, the higher center of gravity, increased rollover propensity, large blindspots, and handling differences with pickup trucks require extra precautions. Some tips include properly loading/securing cargo, not overloading the vehicle, driving more conservatively, installing side step bars for shorter passengers, considering extended side mirror arms for visibility, teaching teens about stability risks, and using spotters when backing up trailers.

If you feel your vehicle has a legitimate safety defect that the manufacturer is failing to address appropriately, you can file a complaint with Transport Canada’s Defect Investigations and Recalls Division. If a pattern of similar complaints emerges, the government can choose to investigate and force a recall if deemed necessary. You can also contact an independent consumer advocacy group to create public pressure.



Transport Canada maintains a constantly updated online searchable database where Canadian consumers can search for safety recalls by vehicle make, model and year. Recalls explain the issue or defect and necessary actions like repairs, component replacements or software updates needed to remedy it. Manufacturer websites also provide recall lookups. Your dealer can perform recall-related repairs free of charge.

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