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The Nitty-Gritty on Buying a Safe Car

Submitted by Larry E. Coben on September 30, 2011 – 8:35 am

The automotive marketplace is booming with new safety gadgets. There are lots of choices, some of which make driving more fun and other features that make driving a bit safer. To that end, here are a few options to consider as you ponder your next vehicle purchase: 

Stability Control and ABS – Both features can help drivers retain control of their vehicles in dangerous situations. Stability control is an essential feature for trucks and SUVs that have an increased rollover risk.

Electronic Steering Control (ESC), Traction Control and AWD - These features can also improve traction in poor weather and off-road conditions. They are very useful in areas with significant snowfall and poor snow removal and in the rain.

Reverse Sensing – Reverse-sensing detectors or backup cameras are helpful to prevent impacts with children or ob jects that might be below your line of sight.

Roll Stability Control – This reduces the risk of a vehicle rollover in extreme cornering or evasive turning, especially for vehicles that stand tall with a high center of gravity. The system uses a gyroscopic sensor and the ESC system by braking one or more wheels and reducing engine power.

Curve Control System (CCS) – This platform is an extension of roll stability control. The system senses when you are enter ing a curve too quickly and automatically slows the vehicle speed by reducing engine power and applies braking to the four wheels.

Blind Spot Detection – This feature warns a driver that a vehicle is in his or her blind spot — areas to the side and rear of the vehicle outside the driver’s view. Sensors (camera, ultra sonic or radar) monitor the vehicle’s sides and rear for other vehicles approaching from behind and alert the driver with lights mounted in either the side-view or rear-view mirrors or the door.

Automatic Crash Notification – Some manufacturers include systems that can automatically notify authorities in the event of a crash.

Forward Collision Warning – This feature senses when the vehicle ahead is slowing or stopped and alerts the driver of the risk of a possible crash. The system monitors the relative speed and following distance to the vehicle in front. When your vehicle gets too close to the vehicle in front, a signal (audible and/or visual) alerts the driver. Many
systems will also activate the seat belt pretensioners, precharge the airbag systems and the brakes.

Advanced Forward Lighting – This is a term used for lights that can automatically adapt to changing driving conditions (road and visibility). Some systems can swivel the main beams left and right up to 15 degrees according to the vehicle’s travel path (angle of the curve) and speed. This provides greater lighting to the road ahead. Other systems can automatically switch from high beams to low beams when it detects an approaching vehicle.

Night Vision - This helps drivers see people or animals in the distance at
night. It generates a video image in real time in either the head’s-up display or on a screen in the instrument panel. The potential safety advantage of night vision is in facilitating earlier detection of objects compared to headlamps alone.

Tire Pressure Monitors – This feature checks the tires’ air pressure and alerts the driver by voice, message or other warning signal when a tire’s pressure has dropped below a safe level.

For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov.

— Larry E. Coben Esq. is an attorney with Anapol Schwartz PC in Arizona.