There are a number of safety features that are available in many cars today that can prove invaluable to drivers. Though no safety system is perfect, they can go a long way in overriding driver error and preventing accidents. Even if you may be a fabulous driver and always drive alertly and defensively, you cannot count on other drivers to do the same. Here are some of the more common and helpful safety features now available to drivers.
Forward Collision Warning
A forward collision warning system uses radar, lasers, or cameras to scan the road ahead of you while you drive to detect dangers like stopped or slowly moving vehicles. If there is an obstacle ahead, the system will warn you using lights, beeps, vibrations of your seat, or a combination of these three things. Some systems may also tighten your seat belt and pre-charge the brakes so you can stop as quickly as possible.
Most forward collision warning systems are active at speeds greater than 10 mph. These systems may struggle on wet or icy roads that increase your stopping distance. Thus, you may not be alerted intime to avoid a collision. Consequently, use of this warning system during inclement weather is not advised. You can deactivate the system by pressing the forward collision warning system button or by accessing the system via your vehicle’s information screen.
If your vehicle warns you that you are getting dangerously close to an obstacle in front of you, be prepared to brake or steer to safety.
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)
Many vehicles with forward collision warning also come equipped with automatic emergency braking. With this safety feature, when camera-, radar-, or LIDAR-based sensors in the front of your car detect an obstacle in your way and you fail to apply your brakes to avoid a collision, your car will do it for you. This can either prevent a crash or lessen its severity.
Be aware that these systems aren’t foolproof. Sensors in these systems may be blocked by dirt, ice, or snow, so you should read your owner’s manual to find out where your sensors are and check them often and clear any build-up. In addition, some automatic emergency braking features can be affected by glare at sunrise or sunset. These systems also work better on vehicles traveling at slower speeds. Slick road conditions can affect how well an AEB system is able to prevent a collision, and it is probably wise to deactivate the system when the roads are not optimal.
Blind Spot Warning
No matter how you adjust your side mirrors, your vehicle may still have a large blind spot on either side. A blind spot warning system uses sensors to monitor the areas where you can’t see and warn you when a vehicle or other object is there by illuminating a symbol in your mirror or windshield on that side or triggering a sound or vibration. Some systems provide a warning light and then follow with a warning vibration or sound if you activate your turn signal indicating that you are about to move into that lane.
Again, this warning system is not foolproof. Though blind-spot warning systems are optimized to work at highway speeds, they may not work as well at detecting extremely fast vehicles. They also may struggle with sensing slow-moving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians. In addition, high traffic can cause the blind spot warning to activate often. Under those circumstances, drivers may become insensitive to it and inadvertently ignore it.
Though the blind spot warning system can help you be more aware of traffic around you and can assist you when you change lanes, you should still look over your shoulder before doing so. As with other systems, it is important to make sure the blind spot sensors are not blocked by moisture, snow, dirt, or other material.
Lane-Departure Warning and Lane-Keeping Assist (LKA)
Using cameras that monitor the road’s surface, lane-departure warning systems and lane-keeping assist systems look for road markings like stripes along the sides of the road and lane dividing markers. If the vehicle approaches or crosses one of these markers, an audible alert will sound. In addition, if the driver doesn’t respond to the warning by adjusting his or her steering, a system with LKA will move the vehicle back into its lane through the car’s steering system and/or brakes along one side of the car to keep it centered. A car’s steering system is typically more responsive and capable of dealing with more road curvature than its brake system.
Lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist are only available if road markings meet the standards of the system. When the proper conditions are met, an icon for your car’s system will typically appear on the vehicle’s instrument panel Lane departure warning systems and lane-keeping assist systems can often be activated by the driver with a button on the steering wheel. The driver can also easily deactivate the systems as needed.
Faint lane markers, roadwork or construction, inclement weather, and other factors can render these types of systems unfunctional. Even when these systems are working properly, drivers must always maintain their focus on conditions around them and control their vehicles.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Using sensory technology such as cameras, lasers, and radar equipment, adaptive cruise control helps vehicles keep a safe following distance and stay within the speed limit. While standard cruise control will only maintain the speed you program into it, adaptive cruise control adjusts your speed to that of traffic in front of you automatically, so you don’t have to. It does so regardless of traffic conditions and speed changes. For instance, if highway traffic speeds are high and then drop dramatically, your adaptive cruise control will drop your speed to match without your intervention. This is especially helpful during rush-hour traffic conditions. As a driver, you don’t have to worry about your speed and can focus on what is going on around you.
As with other vehicle safety features, adverse weather conditions and environmental factors such as driving through tunnels can confuse the system’s sensors. ACC is not entirely autonomous, and, as always, drivers need to practice safe driving habits.
If you don’t have these safety features on your current automobile, you might want to consider them when purchasing a vehicle in the future. Here at Accident & Injury Chiropractic, we want you to be as safe as possible when on the road.