Looking to buy your first car? Stay safe on the road with these features.
As a first-time buyer, you have a lot of decisions to make: Which make and model? Which color? SUV or compact? Sporty or economical? Used or new? Which car financing options are best?
But along with all of those considerations, make sure that something else is on the top of your list: the best car safety features.This is especially important if you’re buying a used car. What to look for? Here’s our guide.
Essential Safety Features
When buying used, and particularly if you’re looking into purchasing an older model, make sure these features are present and in good working condition.
Seat belts or safety belts
This is the single most important feature and saves the most lives—not to mention it’s illegal in most places to go without a seat belt. Plus, there are a number of enhancements that make safety belts even more worthy of their name: Seat belt pretensioners tighten the belts to better protect you during impact. Force limiters loosen the slack to reduce force. And inflatable seat belts and adjustable anchors are also worth looking for, as they can prevent injury.
Rear view and side mirrors are must-haves for safe driving.
These have been standard in cars since 1998, and they work when sensors detect a collision and trigger the airbags to inflate. Most airbags are now adaptive or dual-stage airbags, meaning they can detect the presence, weight, and seat position of those in the vehicle, and adjust inflation accordingly. Both front impact and side-impact airbags are found in most newer vehicles.
Antilock brakes (ABS)
ABS technology allows you to maintain steering control and prevents you from locking up your wheels during hard braking. It works by using a combination of a computer and sensors to maximize the braking action of each individual wheel.
Traction control helps your tires grip the road on wet, slippery or loose surfaces, such as ice, snow, or gravel. It works similarly to ABS and is also electronically controlled.
Electronic stability control (ESC)
This system helps you avoid skidding or sliding during a turn, reducing engine power if needed to put your car back on course. Sensors detect everything from wheel speed and steering angle, to sideways motion and rotation (or yaw).
LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)
The LATCH system is required in all vehicles for secure, simplified installation of child safety seats.
Backup & Other Camera Systems
As of 2018, all new cars are required to have backup cameras, saving up to 69 lives every year, according to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration.
Backup cameras activate when the vehicle is placed in reverse, and display the rear view on a center console screen or rear-view mirror. It can be used when you’re backing out of a driveway or parking spot, and is especially helpful for seeing children, pets, and objects that you may not see, even when you turn to look out the rear window.
Many cars also come equipped with 360-degree view camera systems, to help with parking and improve visibility in all kinds of driving situations.
Active Safety Systems
Most new cars come stocked with the latest technology that can help you avoid a crash in certain situations. Some of these systems to look for include:
- Collision warning—Detects a crash and alerts you as the driver.
- Emergency braking—Automatically applies the brakes if it detects another vehicle, pedestrian or other object, whether you’re traveling forward or in reverse.
- Pedestrian detection—Detects and warns you of pedestrians and, in some vehicles, cyclists.
- Lane assistance—Alerts you if you cross into another lane, or assists with steering to keep you in your lane.
- Blind spot detection—Warns you if there are vehicles in adjacent lanes.
- Adaptive cruise control—Accelerates or brakes to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and another vehicle.
- Parking assistance—Uses sensors in the bumpers (front, rear or both) to alert you when you’re parking that obstacles are near.
- Rear cross-traffic alert—Lets you know if traffic is approaching that may cross your path when you’re in reverse. In some vehicles, this feature automatically deploys the brakes.
- Adaptive headlights—Pivots the headlights toward the direction you’re traveling for greater visibility.
Note that every car manufacturer may have proprietary names for each of these systems, and not all of these features are standard, so be sure to ask when considering a purchase.
Cars have gotten much safer over the decades thanks to technology and regulation, but not a single one of these features replaces safe driving. No matter how many safety bells, whistles, cameras and sensors your new car comes equipped with, always use your brain to drive safely and responsibly.
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