Hype vs. Help: New safety features in cars

driver adjusting rear-view mirror

Advances in car technology have made it difficult to choose what add-ons you really need and which are excessive or worse yet, dangerous. We’re all for innovation, but we want to help you find out what new safety features are all hype and which ones can actually help protect you on the road. Whether you’re in the market for a new car or you’re simply curious about the newest safety features, check out our assessments of some of the most cutting-edge car technologies.

Front crash prevention

Front crash prevention includes features that both warn you when a front end collision is imminent and automatically apply the brakes to help you avoid a crash. New crash avoidance technologies, such as front crash prevention, are already reducing insurance claims from at-fault drivers. This safety feature is quickly becoming an available option in all new cars, but it can vary in effectiveness. Check the make and model of the car you’re considering on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety ratings to find out if it has a superior front crash prevention system.

HELP Less “bang” for your buck.

Voice activated texting

Phone related driving accidents are responsible for a growing number of car crashes. Texting while driving is the number one offender, but taking your eyes off the road for any reason is extremely hazardous. Hands-free car technology that allows you to keep your eyes on the road may seem like an advance in car safety, but studies have shown that voice activation systems cause mental distractions that can slow down a driver’s reaction times.

HYPE Use your head. Texts can wait.

Lane departure warning

Lane departure warning technology alerts you when you’re about to veer out of your lane unless your turn signal is on. This feature has progressed recently to include Lane Keep Assist, which automatically corrects your car’s course to keep you centered on the road. It might sound like a self-driving car, but the steering wheel movements are very subtle and can be overridden at any time.

HELP What’s not to like?

Rain sensing wipers

Windshield wipers are a critically important car safety feature, but why change something that doesn’t need improving? With the flick of the wrist, windshield wipers are as easy to operate as power windows. Rain sensing wipers use infrared lights to detect if your windshield glass is dry – something the human eye can do just fine. If you aren’t able to spot when it’s raining, you probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place.

HYPE If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Touch screen controls

Similar to smart phones, touch screen car consoles also require you to take your eyes off the road to operate. Touch screen car controls can be difficult to use and some even come with highly distracting features like an integrated web browser. Limited touch screen functionality, like GPS, can be useful, but conventional knobs and buttons make it easier for you to keep your eyes on the road.

HYPE Overly complicated touch screens are distracting.

Backup cameras

Cameras that allow you to see what’s in the blind spot behind your car are useful for parking, but more importantly they can save a life. Accidents that result from backing up cause an average of 292 deaths per year. Backup cameras are especially useful on larger vehicles, such as SUVs, where the blind spot might be large enough to hide a small child from your view.

HELP Another pair of eyes can only help you see better.