They may not make engines the way they used to – but they’re making cars safer and more crash-proof per pound than ever before. Innovations in materials, GPS technology and microchips have made a wide variety of potentially life-saving technologies cost-effective and affordable for the car buyer.
Car safety devices and features can be separated into two categories: Passive devices such as seat belts and airbags, and active devices, which proactively help drivers avoid accidents, not just survive them.
In some cases, insurance companies may offer a premium discount for owning vehicles with some or all of these safety features:
In the old days, airbags could prove almost as dangerous to smaller drivers and passengers as the crash itself. They opened with such force that they could injure smaller and lighter crash victims. The new generation of bags can sense the size of the crash victim, and their forward speed, and automatically make adjustments to compensate, resulting in a safer airbag.
Distance Control Assist Devices
This active device uses radar or laser technology to gauge the distance between your car and the one in front of you. The computer system also monitors your forward speeds and your speeds relative to one another. If the distance between you is shortening rapidly, you will hear an alarm. Some models will even begin to move the gas pedal upwards to make it easier to switch to the brake.
Lane Departure Warning Devices
Lane departure warning devices use optics to monitor lane markings – and automatically generate a warning tone if you begin to drift out of your lane. Some higher end cars will even nudge the car back into the lane. These devices have been in use in commercial truck fleets for years, but are now making their way into the luxury sedan market.
Anti-rolling technology takes aircraft automatic pilot technology and applies it to your car. A system of sensors monitors whether your car is tilting one way or another – and automatically makes adjustments to prevent the car from flipping. The car may apply a combination of measures, such as reducing throttle, applying the anti-lock brake system, and adjusting steering to prevent a flip – and perhaps save you from a deadly injury. Chrysler calls this technology “rollover mitigation.” General Motors refers to this technology as “rollover avoidance.”
Accident Notification Systems
This is a passive technology, but can be a critical one: It will call emergency responders when you can’t. If your car is in an accident, the accident notification system will automatically notify the manufacturer’s cellular link service (think “OnStar” but there are others), which will then notify rescue personnel using global positioning system technology. So if you are incapacitated after a wreck, or even if you forgot to charge your cell phone, help is on the way.
Emergency Brake Assist
An emergency brake assist feature uses computer technology to determine whether a brake application is a gentle, routine slow-down or stop, or whether it is a panic brake situation. If your brake application is combined with a frantic movement of the steering wheel, or if your foot release on the gas is faster than usual, or you are hitting your brakes unusually hard, a computer will automatically channel the emergency brake assist – putting more hydraulic pressure on the line and applying brakes faster and more powerfully to stop your car’s wheels.
Obviously, different carriers have different pricing systems – and discounts offered for equipping your vehicle with safety features vary from state to state, even with the same carrier. The newer features are still winding their way through the system, but many carriers offer discounts for anti-lock brakes, airbags or anti-theft devices – all of which have proven effectiveness in lowering claims.
It may be time for a policy reassessment. Can you qualify for a discount? Contact your auto insurance agent today and find out.