Does new car technology actually keep us safer?

Learning New Car Safety FeaturesIf you have shopped for a new car in the last several years, you may have been overwhelmed by all of the available safety features. You may have wondered when seat belts and airbags were replaced by electronic sensors and cameras as the latest and greatest in car safety. The fact is, cars are safer than ever, but many of the safety features are difficult for some drivers to understand—particularly older drivers—and other features actually distract the driver from the task of driving, creating an additional safety risk. We take a look at important new safety technology and offer advice on using these features effectively.

Best Safety Features

While there are plenty of high-tech safety features available, the features that continue to save the most lives are the tried-and-true mechanical features that have been around for many years: seat belts and airbags. Nothing will protect you more in a collision than these standard features. However, new safety technology focuses on accident prevention. A few of the most effective safety technologies include the following:

  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS). Anti-lock brakes have been available on most car models since 2003. They are now standard on all cars. ABS prevent accidents by stopping the wheels from locking up when you are forced to brake suddenly, allowing you to steer away from an obstacle.
  • Adaptive cruise control. Drivers love cruise control because it allows them to maintain a consistent speed without having to keep a foot on the accelerator. Adaptive cruise control takes this one step further by using a radar unit to scan the road ahead and automatically slow the car down if it is approaching slower-moving traffic, forcing you to keep a safe following distance.
  • Back-up camera and sensors. Many fender-benders and pedestrian accidents happen when a driver is reversing his vehicle. Having a back-up camera and sensors tells you when there is something or someone behind you so you can stop before hitting it.
  • Blind-spot and lane-departure warnings. Using radar or cameras, blind-spot monitors let you know when there is a car in your blind spot so that you can safely change lanes. Lane departure warning systems tell you when your car is drifting out of its lane, which may be an indication that you are dozing off or are distracted by something.

All of these features can save lives, but they require an understanding on the part of the driver as to how they work and how to use them properly. Many older drivers have a hard time adapting to the new technology and may actually find that some of these features inhibit safe driving.

Features Older Drivers Struggle With

Many older drivers are thrown for a loop when they shop for a new car. They are often overwhelmed by the infotainment systems, safety warning systems, and Bluetooth options. Instead of embracing the new technology, many seniors opt for as few features as possible on new cars. This is unfortunate, because many of these features are just what older drivers need to keep them safe. Lane-departure and blind-spot warnings, for example, can help drivers suffering with arthritis or poor flexibility identify hazards they would not otherwise see. In fact, AAA recommends certain safety features for older drivers who suffer from particular age-related problems.

The key to the proper use of safety features for all drivers—but particularly for older drivers—is a thorough training session with the car salesman or dealership. Dealers recommend driving the car for a couple of weeks and then, once you have questions, returning to the dealership for a training session on particular features. The National Safety Council has an interactive website, My Car Does What?, to help people understand their vehicle’s features.

Misuse of Safety Features Does Not Protect From Liability

New car technology is obviously there to enhance the driving experience and to keep drivers and others on the road safe. As people are getting used to new features, they may take their eyes off the road or become cognitively distracted and cause an accident. Being confused by safety features is not an excuse for unsafe driving. If you were injured in a crash with someone trying to blame his car’s technology or warning systems for the accident, don’t be fooled. No matter what his excuse is, he is liable for your injuries. Contact one of our Indianapolis car accident lawyers today to find out what we can do for you after a car accident that wasn’t your fault.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller