We hear it all the time–buying or leasing a car is HARD!! Deciding which new or used vehicle to buy can be overwhelming and confusing.

We’re here to help, so here are some must-have safety features to help narrow down your list. After the must-have safety features, we discuss the crash test ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Top 6 Safety Features

In our opinion, these 6 are the non-negotiables (i.e. if the vehicle doesn’t have it, we wouldn’t buy it).

  1. Crash avoidance systems, specifically
      • Front crash prevention with autobrake,
      • Electronic stabilization control,
      • Rear crash and backover prevention/Rear cross traffic alert
  2. Side impact airbags for front and rear passengers
  3. Enough tether anchors
  4. Adequate trunk and cargo space
  5. Sufficient size and weight to your vehicle
  6. Good head restraints in all positions

1. Crash Avoidance Systems

Driver Assist Systems (Automatic Systems)

These systems assist the driver by slowing or stopping the vehicle, not just warning the driver to take action. The first three of these are our priorities and should be non-negotiable. The other systems are important too and are sometimes offered in a package with the autobrake and rear cross traffic alert systems. Be attentive when shopping — look at the various vehicle packages carefully as sometimes manufacturers pick and choose which of these safety features comes on a particular model. You definitely want the first three, but also as many of the others as is possible! 

Front Crash Prevention with Autobrake (must-have feature)

Let’s cut to the chase. If it’s within your budget to get a vehicle with Front Crash Prevention (Autobrake) / Automatic Emergency Braking – and in particular one that earns a superior rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – this may be the best health insurance you can buy for yourself and your family. Since car crashes are a leading cause of preventable death and injury for children and adults, and frontal crashes are the most common type of crash resulting in death, you want a vehicle that can help prevent you from getting into a frontal crash. When preventing the crash isn’t possible, front crash prevention technology can lessen the crash’s severity by decreasing the speed at which the crash happens.

This system is often called Automatic Emergency Braking, and it means the vehicle will help prevent a crash from occurring by slamming on the brakes by itself, without you needing to. In cases where this can’t prevent the crash, it decreases the speed at which the crash occurs, thereby decreasing the risk of injury.

How do you know if a vehicle has this feature? If you go to the IIHS ratings page for a specific vehicle you’ll see a list of features, including a section called “Crash avoidance and mitigation” which will tell you if the vehicle offers this technology, and if so whether it’s optional or standard. If you click on the link you’ll see the package name so that you’ll know exactly what to ask for at the dealership.

Note that some vehicles have a system called Forward Collision Warning (FCW) which is like the above system but WITHOUT the autobrake feature. A warning like a flashing light, beep, vibration, etc, will alert you to an imminent head-on crash. This technology is effective but not nearly as effective as when it comes with Autobrake, because sometimes the warning comes too late, and you won’t have enough time to react and brake before the crash. Autobrake can activate the brakes much faster than a human can.

Forward Collision Warning with Autobrake reduces front to rear crashes by 50%.

Electronic Stabilization Control (ESC) (must-have feature)

ESC is a computerized technology that makes a vehicle more stable by detecting and then reducing skidding, which prevents many single-vehicle crashes and especially rollovers. Essentially, it helps drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. ESC is expected to save more lives than seat belts, because it prevents a crash from happening in the first place! If all vehicles on the road were equipped with this technology, as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year in the US. ESC cuts in half the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash. It reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by about 75% for SUV’s and cars and it’s estimated to prevent 40 to 56% of large truck rollovers and 14% of loss-of-control crashes.

ESC has been required on all but the heaviest vehicles since model year 2012 and as of model year 2019 is also required on large trucks. Its safety benefits are so tremendous that it should be a non-negotiable when you’re shopping for a pre-owned vehicle. It’s marketed under various names such as dynamic stability control, vehicle stability control, dynamic stability, and traction control, among others.

How does it work? ESC looks for differences between the direction of the steering wheel (meaning the direction the driver wants the vehicle to travel) and the actual direction the vehicle is headed. When there’s a difference between these two directions, ESC makes the necessary corrections, by controlling the braking of individual wheels and the cars speed, to match the vehicle’s direction of travel with the direction the driver wanted.

ESC prevents both oversteering and understeering. Oversteer is when the car turns farther than the driver wanted, causing the rear wheels to slide and the car to spin. Understeer is when the front wheels don’t have enough traction and the car continues straight ahead instead of turning. During emergency maneuvers, ESC can help a driver maintain control and prevent the sideways skidding and loss of control that can lead to a rollover, and can prevent running off the road on a sharp curve by reducing the vehicle’s speed.

Rear Crash and Backover Prevention, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (must-have feature)

As of 2018, all vehicles must come with backup cameras, which help prevent backover crashes. Children are the most frequent victims of these crashes. Some vehicles also come with autonomous braking for rear crashes, where the car will automatically apply the brakes if it detects an object behind you while you are backing up. Others will not apply the brakes but will sound a warning alarm to alert you to the object. Rear cross traffic detection can alert you and on some models, will apply the brakes, if it detects a vehicle approaching yours while you are backing up. These rear crash prevention systems are fantastic as they, like the technology above, help prevent a crash from happening in the first place, and specifically a type of crash that disproportionately affects very young children.

Adaptive Cruise Control (runner-up–get it if you can)

This is a smarter cruise control that represents one of the beginning steps in autonomous driving. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) allows you to set your desired speed and following distance, and then your car will automatically slow down or speed up to maintain these. So ACC not only maintains your set speed, but if the traffic in front of you slows down, ACC will slow your car down to maintain your desired gap. Once the ACC detects that there is sufficient space between you and the car in front, your car will accelerate up to your set speed.

ACC systems vary in several important ways. Some will provide partial braking, while others will bring the car to a complete stop when necessary. Many versions work only at set speeds above 25 to 35 mph, meaning they won’t work for driving around town. Many also shut off when the car goes below a certain speed, meaning they may shut off in stop and go traffic. ACC that works at highway speeds in increasingly common, but ACC that works down to a full stand-still, called ACC with Stop and Go, is a next important step in managing bumper to bumper traffic.

ACC is great for everyone, but especially for those who do lots of highway driving and those who are prone to motion sickness. Those who get motion sick will be the first to tell you that some drivers make them feel much sicker than others, particularly due to how the driver accelerates and brakes. ACC is the most gentle driver of all, since the car can accelerate and brake much more smoothly than a human can, so you are less likely to feel motion sick.

Adaptive Headlights (runner up–get it if you can)

Headlights matter! If you can’t see an obstacle, how are you supposed to avoid it? Glare from other drivers headlights can also affect your ability to see. Effective headlights need to illuminate the road well enough to give a driver enough time to stop even at high speeds without blinding other drivers. 

Curve-adaptive headlights rotate based on steering wheel movement to light up the road ahead, which is particularly useful for visibility on a dark and windy road. Studies indicate that curve adaptive headlights increase visibility, allowing a driver more time to react, perhaps avoiding a crash altogether. These headlights can lessen the severity of the crash if it does occur, by giving the driver more time to slow down, so that the eventual crash occurs at a lower speed.

High beam assist headlights use a camera to detect other vehicles and turn on and off the high beams based on the other vehicles’ locations. Using high beams greatly increases visibility, again giving a driver more time to react.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Detection with Autobrake

Pedestrians account for at least 1/6th of all fatalities on our roads. In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed and at least 70,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the US.

Pedestrians can get hit in 2 different ways: by a frontal crash, or by being backed over. Pedestrian detection systems can prevent both types of crashes.

To prevent a frontal crash, the pedestrian detection system looks for pedestrians in front of the vehicle and warns the driver if a crash is likely. Some systems (autobrake) will also apply the brakes as well. An IIHS analysis of 2005-2009 crash data “estimated that such pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations and 58 percent of pedestrian deaths in these crashes.”

The majority of pedestrian deaths happen at high speeds in low light situations. Unfortunately, some of these detection systems are designed to operate only at low speeds with good lighting, which obviously reduces their effectiveness.

Rear-view cameras and park assist systems can help prevent backover crashes by letting the driver see what is behind the car, which they couldn’t see by using just the rear-view mirror or side mirrors. The best technology is park assist with autobrake, which applies the brakes if the driver is backing up into something (a pole, a car, or a person).

Lane Keeping Assist

If your vehicle detects you are veering outside of your lane and you do not respond in time, it will automatically steer you back in the right direction, helping to avoid a crash. This is an advanced version of Lane Departure Warning, discussed below.

Driver Warning Systems

These features help avoid a crash by warning the driver of a problem. They don’t stop or steer the vehicle; they only alert the driver, who must then take action.

Blind Spot Detection

This feature will warn you with an icon, usually a lighted symbol in your side mirror or windshield frame, that a vehicle is in your blind spot. It may also warn you more vigorously with a sound or vibration if you put on your turn signal while the other vehicle is in your blind spot. This technology has been proven effective in both preventing lane-change crashes and decreasing injury when the crash was not preventable.

Lane Departure Warning

This system warns the driver when their car is veering out of their lane. The warning is usually a flashing light, a beep, a vibration, or a tightening of the seat belt. It may be augmented by Lane Keep Assist in some newer models.

Drowsy Driver Detection

Drowsy driving kills thousands and injures tens of thousands in the US every year. The NHTSA estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in the USA in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers. Do your part to ensure you aren’t driving drowsy: look for a vehicle that might be able to warn you if you’re losing attention due to fatigue.

Drowsy driver detection systems do exactly what they sound like they do — they detect and warn a drowsy driver. Some systems borrow from lane departure warning systems and monitor how much a driver is drifting out of their lane, since its assumed that an alert driver will stay in their lane. Other systems learn your driving patterns while you’re fully alert and then warn you if they sense your driving is slower or erratic. Other systems use facial recognition technology to detect eyelid droop and head bobs to tell if you’re starting to fall asleep.

Early studies suggest that the drowsy driver detection technology will help prevent crashes, but this kind of warning is only as effective as the driver’s response to it. Specifically, does the driver find a safe place to pull over and take a nap, or does the driver ignore the warning and continue driving?

Parking Sensors

Parking sensors alert you to the position of objects around your vehicle as you park, using cameras, sensors, and/or tones. Some even include lines that appear in your back-up camera. These sensors can help you avoid objects that are both in front of and behind your vehicle.

Automatic parallel parking helps find a viable spot by making sure there is enough room for your vehicle to fit bet

For more information on these technologies: see IIHS’s fantastic explanations

2. Side Impact Air Bags (SABs) that offer head and chest protection to front AND back passengers

While surprisingly not government-required in the US, side air bags are now standard equipment in nearly all passenger vehicles since 2008, at least for the driver and front passenger. Side air bags try to keep you from hitting the inside of the vehicle and things outside the vehicle in a side crash. Since the head is the part of the body most likely to be injured in a crash, and the part we don’t know how to fix, side air bags are a critical safety feature. Side air bags also help by spreading crash forces over a larger area of your body. Side air bags that protect the head reduce a car driver’s risk of death in driver-side crashes by 37 percent and an SUV driver’s risk by 52 percent. 

The IIHS vehicle ratings database tells you if a particular vehicle has side airbags as optional or standard equipment – and will tell you whether the side air bags offer head and/or chest protection, and to which rows of seats this protection extends. 

For example, in an SUV with a 3rd row, it may have head and chest protection SABs for the front seat, just head protection SABs for the 2nd row, and no SABs at all for the 3rd row (making the 3rd row not the best place for your kids… even though you were buying the vehicle to put kids back there).

Are side airbags safe for kids?

Short answer: yes. Click here for lots more info you’ll want to read.

3 Types of Side Air Bags (SABs)

There are 3 types of side air bags – Head, Chest, and Combination. Click here to read more about the 3 types to understand which ones you’ll want to look for in your new car.

3. Enough Tether Anchors

The tether is the MOST IMPORTANT part of EVERY forward-facing car seat. Unfortunately, the government only requires cars 2003 and newer to have 3 tether anchors. If you’re buying a sedan, you have 3 seats in back, and you’ll have a tether anchor for each of these seats. If you’re buying a vehicle with a 3rd row – such as a minivan or SUV – chances are you will NOT have tether anchors in all of the positions. Shocking, right! Therefore, before buying a vehicle with a 3rd row, make sure that any of the positions where you might want to put a forward-facing child have a tether anchor… see here for a comprehensive list of vehicle tether anchor positions.

4. Sufficient Size and Weight

Vehicle size and weight matter.  We’re not suggesting that you buy the biggest, heaviest, behemoth of a vehicle you can find… but we want you to realize that smaller, lighter vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. Smaller vehicles have less structure to absorb crash energy, making deaths and injuries more likely.  When struck by heavier vehicles, people in lighter vehicles also experience higher crash forces.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “If safety is a major consideration, pass up very small, light vehicles.” The IIHS is quick to add that this doesn’t mean that drivers have to choose the heaviest vehicles on the road to get good protection. Crash tests show that midsize cars afford a lot more protection than minicars from the same manufacturer. For example, the 2014 Chevrolet Spark (2,300 pounds – a minicar) and the 2014 Kia Optima (3,300 pounds – a midsize car) are both IIHS Top Safety Picks; the Optima would likely be safer than the Spark given its extra weight and size. It would NOT be recommended to buy a vehicle with a lower safety rating simply for its increased size – look for sufficient size AND safety ratings.  For more about this topic, see the IIHS’s Status Report.

5. Adequate Trunk and Cargo Space

Cargo in the passenger area just isn’t safe.  Things (objects, people, etc) become very heavy in a crash and will weigh their usual weight TIMES the G’s in the crash (G’s are the force of gravity).  A 30mph crash may have 20-25G’s. For example, a 10 lb baby in a 20G crash will weigh approximately 200 lbs! Unrestrained people and objects will fly around in a crash, becoming missiles that can injure the other passengers in the car.

Make sure your car has enough trunk space so that cargo stays out of the passenger area. If you’re buying a vehicle with a 3rd row, it’s ideal to keep the third row up (as if people were riding in the 3rd row) to act as a barrier between the cargo and the kids in the 2nd row.

If you’re planning to put someone in the 3rd row, please know that it is NOT SAFE to have part of the 3rd row folded down while someone’s sitting back there. Doing this makes it such that the person in the 3rd row is in essence riding in the trunk. All the cargo next to them can fly on top of them in a crash.

Note: Many SUVs with a 3rd row will have insufficient trunk space for even everyday use, like stowing groceries and strollers, when the 3rd row is being used. Check carefully before purchasing! For those needing to use the 3rd row for seating, a minivan will typically offer much more cargo space than an SUV.

6. Good Head Restraints in Every Position

Whiplash is the most frequently reported injury in U.S. auto insurance claims. In 2007, the cost of claims in which neck pain was the most serious injury was about $8.8 billion, or 25 percent of the total payout for crash injuries. You should care about preventing whiplash! A good head restraint can help prevent whiplash!

Kids in backless boosters, in some high back boosters, and older kids and adults in seat belts all need the vehicle’s head restraint to come up to AT LEAST the top of their ears for good whiplash protection. Therefore, if a vehicle you’re considering doesn’t have an adequate head restraint in a particular seating position, consider that adults and kids in backless boosters/some highbacked boosters will not be able to sit in that particular position safely!

Kids in rear and forward-facing car seats don’t need to worry about the vehicle’s head restraint in terms of whiplash prevention, but head restraints can still pose major problems regarding car seat compatibility. Some vehicle head restraints tilt forward and this can interfere with the proper positioning of a forward-facing car seat or high back booster. HR’s that are fixed and non-removable – those that look like a solid chunk that simply comes up from the back of the vehicle seat – not only can interfere with car seats and high back boosters, but also can lessen the effectiveness of straight tether straps. Vehicles with removable head restraints will increase your chances of getting a car seat or high back booster to fit in that position and will avoid the tether issue. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 3.21.38 PMIf your vehicle has a fixed, non-removable HR in a position where you are installing a forward-facing car seat, we suggest using a car seat with a V-shaped tether strap – like found on Britax seats & the IMMI Go, because the V will go around the HR. Side impact testing research has shown that straight tethers slide off the top of these head restraints, which leaves the tether loose when you most need it to be tight.

**Please always read the vehicle owner’s manual as there are some vehicles with fixed head restraints that recommend routing a straight tether to the side of, rather than over, the fixed head restraint (e.g. Tesla Model X).

Crash Test Ratings

Two separate organizations – one governmental (NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and one independent (IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) offer crash test ratings for new and older vehicles. Both the IIHS & NHTSA evaluate the crashworthiness of the vehicle, meaning how well the vehicle will protect its occupants in a crash. While both the IIHS & NHTSA now focus attention on crash avoidance and mitigation technologies that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity, the IIHS has been more proactive by factoring this technology into their most recent ratings.  These technologies are not part of the current NHTSA 5 star ratings.

Other differences in the ratings: IIHS factors in head restraint and whiplash protection, while NHTSA does not; NHTSA factors in rollover resistance, while IIHS does not per se, although ESC was part of their ratings for many years before it became a standard feature, and ESC decreases the risk of a rollover. More info on how IIHS tests.  More info on how NHTSA tests.

Since 2013, IIHS offers 2 levels of recommended vehicles – Top Safety Pick (TSP) and Top Safety Pick + (TSP+). Please note that criteria for earning a TSP and TSP+ get more difficult every year – to encourage manufacturers to keep enhancing their vehicles to make them as safe as possible. 

Please keep in mind that some vehicles which received a high rating in previous years may receive a lower rating in subsequent years.  This does not mean that the older vehicle is unsafe.  Due to more vigorous testing and requirements to achieve a certain rating, a vehicle that once received an excellent rating may receive a lower score in a subsequent year even if no changes have been made to the model.  The IIHS consistently adds additional requirements to the minimum needed to earn a Top Safety Pick, with the goal of pushing the development and availability of additional safety features.

Informed For Life, an independent organization, aggregates the crash test ratings from both the IIHS and NHTSA and then adds in their own calculation as to how the weight of the vehicle will affect crash performance.

Still overwhelmed?

We suggest scanning through the IIHS’s list of vehicles that make their Top Safety Pick +.  If you find a vehicle in that list that meets your family’s needs (budget, passenger capacity, fuel efficiency, etc)… go with it and enjoy your new car.  If you need some more options, take a look at those earning the Top Safety Pick.  Compare with NHTSA’s 5 star rating to get a fuller picture of the safety of the vehicle.  Please note, from our experience when it comes to crash avoidance technologies, the information on the NHTSA page may not be accurate as to what is available in that vehicle.  We recommend googling the vehicle and the specific crash avoidance technologies you’re interested in to see which are available and which are not (since vehicle manufacturers love to give these technologies unique names, we found that just looking on the vehicle’s website was sometimes a confusing way of trying to figure out which technologies were offered.  We had more luck starting with a google search).

How to Buy a Safer Vehicle

Deciding which new or used vehicle to buy can be overwhelming, but here are some must-have safety features to help narrow down your list. In our opinion, these 6 are the non-negotiables (i.e. if the vehicle doesn’t have it, we wouldn’t buy it).

After the must-have safety features, we discuss the crash test ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Must Have Safety Features

Click the pink names below to learn more about each.

 

Vehicle Design Features that can be Problematic for Car Seats

Crash Test Ratings

Two separate organizations – one governmental (NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and one independent (IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) offer crash test ratings for new and older vehicles. Both the IIHS & NHTSA evaluate the crashworthiness of the vehicle, meaning how well the vehicle will protect its occupants in a crash. While both the IIHS & NHTSA now focus attention on crash avoidance and mitigation technologies that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity, the IIHS has been more proactive by factoring this technology into their most recent ratings.  These technologies are not part of the current NHTSA 5 star ratings.

Other differences in the ratings: IIHS factors in head restraint and whiplash protection, while NHTSA does not; NHTSA factors in rollover resistance, while IIHS does not per se, although ESC was part of their ratings for many years before it became a standard feature, and ESC decreases the risk of a rollover. More info on how IIHS tests.  More info on how NHTSA tests.

Since 2013, IIHS offers 2 levels of recommended vehicles – Top Safety Pick (TSP) and Top Safety Pick + (TSP+). Please note that criteria for earning a TSP and TSP+ get more difficult every year – to encourage manufacturers to keep enhancing their vehicles to make them as safe as possible. 

Please keep in mind that some vehicles which received a high rating in previous years may receive a lower rating in subsequent years.  This does not mean that the older vehicle is unsafe.  Due to more vigorous testing and requirements to achieve a certain rating, a vehicle that once received an excellent rating may receive a lower score in a subsequent year even if no changes have been made to the model.  The IIHS consistently adds additional requirements to the minimum needed to earn a Top Safety Pick, with the goal of pushing the development and availability of additional safety features.

Informed For Life, an independent organization, aggregates the crash test ratings from both the IIHS and NHTSA and then adds in their own calculation as to how the weight of the vehicle will affect crash performance.

Still overwhelmed?

We suggest scanning through the IIHS’s list of vehicles that make their Top Safety Pick +.  If you find a vehicle in that list that meets your family’s needs (budget, passenger capacity, fuel efficiency, etc)… go with it and enjoy your new car.  If you need some more options, take a look at those earning the Top Safety Pick.  Compare with NHTSA’s 5 star rating to get a fuller picture of the safety of the vehicle.  Please note, from our experience when it comes to crash avoidance technologies, the information on the NHTSA page may not be accurate as to what is available in that vehicle.  We recommend googling the vehicle and the specific crash avoidance technologies you’re interested in to see which are available and which are not (since vehicle manufacturers love to give these technologies unique names, we found that just looking on the vehicle’s website was sometimes a confusing way of trying to figure out which technologies were offered.  We had more luck starting with a google search).

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

Newer vehicles are coming with a variety of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) all with the goal of helping the driver avoid a crash. There are 3 categories of ADAS – those that aid the driver, those that warn the driver, and those that assist the driver. The assist ones are the most helpful in avoiding a crash.

Advanced Driver ASSIST Systems

Key Take Away Points: Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is a smarter cruise control that represents one of the beginning steps in autonomous driving. ACC is where you set your desired speed and following distance and the car will slow down or speed up to maintain these. ACC systems vary in several important ways. Some will provide partial braking, while others will bring the car to a complete stop when necessary. ACC that works at highway speeds is increasingly common, but ACC that works down to a full standstill – called ACC with Stop and Go – is an next important step in managing bumper-to-bumper traffic. ACC is great for everyone – but especially those who do lots of highway driving and those who are prone to motion sickness.


Adaptive Cruise Control

The video above shows a Volkswagen Golf with Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go (for traffic jams).

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is available on a growing number of newer cars (starting around 2014) and is one of the early steps towards autonomous driving. Just like regular cruise control, with ACC you set the speed you want to maintain. The difference is that with ACC you also set your following distance – or the gap between you and the car in front. This lets the car know how aggressive of a driver you want it to be. ACC not only maintains your set speed, but if traffic in front of you slows down, ACC will slow your car down to maintain your desired gap. Once the ACC detects that there is sufficient space between you and the car in front, your car will accelerate up to your set speed. 

Those who get motion sick will be the first to tell you that some drivers make them feel much sicker than others – particularly due to how the driver accelerates and brakes. ACC is the most gentle driver of all – as the car can accelerate and brake much smoother than a human can. And a gentle ride is a ride where you are less likely to feel sick. 

All car manufacturers’ ACC works a little differently. Many versions of ACC only work at set speeds above 25-35mph. This means that many will NOT work for driving around town where speed limits are typically under 35mph. Many versions also shut off when the car goes below a certain speed – meaning that if you are on the highway and find yourself in stop and go traffic, the ACC won’t work. Some versions have ACC with Stop and Go – which means that the ACC will continue to work even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, bringing you to a full stop and then accelerating when the car ahead moves within a given timeframe. 

Ever felt like losing your lunch in stop and go traffic – with all the constant lurching forward and back as the driver speeds up and slows down every few seconds? We can’t get you out of a traffic jam, but ACC with Stop and Go can decrease the lurching your body experiences in stop and go traffic because the car is a much smoother driver than a human. With Stop and Go ACC, the driver only has to steer the car while stuck in a traffic jam on the highway. ACC with Stop and Go can be a godsend for those who get motion sick – and for those who have commutes that involve a lot of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Click here to learn more about Adaptive Cruise Control. 

Brake Assist

Traffic Jam Assist

Key Take Away Point: Electronic stability control (ESC) is a computerized technology that makes the vehicle more stable by detecting and then reducing skidding which prevents many single-vehicle crashes and especially rollovers. ESC is expected to save more lives than seat belts – because ESC prevents certain crashes from ever happening. It is standard on most vehicles since 2012 in the US and available on some older vehicles. 


Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a critical safety feature as it reduces the number and severity of crashes. ESC was first introduced in the mid-90’s and is now required on all but the heaviest vehicles in the US since the 2012 model year. By 2019, all vehicles – including large truck tractors – will have ESC. The safety benefits of ESC are so tremendous that it should be a non-negotiable

How does ESC work?

ESC is looking for differences between the direction of the steering wheel (meaning the direction the driver wants the vehicle to travel) and the actual direction the vehicle is headed. When there is a difference between these two directions, ESC makes the necessary corrections  – by controlling the braking of individual wheels and the car’s speed – to match the vehicle’s direction of travel with the direction the driver wanted. 

ESC helps prevent both over and understeering. Oversteer is when the car turns farther than the driver wanted, causing the rear wheels to slide and the car to spin. Understeer is the opposite of oversteer and it happens when the front wheels don’t have enough traction and the car continues straight ahead rather than turning.

During emergency maneuvers, ESC can help a driver maintain control and prevent the sideways skidding and loss of control that can lead to a rollover. ESC can also prevent running off the road on a sharp curve by reducing the vehicle’s speed.  

How effective is ESC in preventing crashes?

If all vehicles were equipped with ESC, as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year in the US. ESC reduces fatal single-vehicle crash risk by half for cars & SUVs. ESC is particularly effective at preventing rollover crashes; it reduces the risk of fatal single-vehicle rollovers by about 75% for SUVs and cars.1 Federal studies also show large benefits. NHTSA estimates that ESC on large trucks could prevent 40 to 56 percent of rollovers and 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes.ESC is required on all large trucks by 2019.

Watch & Learn more about Electronic Stability Control

Key Take Away Point: Automatic Parallel and/or Perpendicular Parking can help you find a spot and prevent you from hitting other cars while it helps you pull into the spot.


Automatic Parallel Parking helps find a viable spot by making sure there is enough room for your vehicle to fit between the two cars. Automatic Parallel Parking helps guide you into a spot by steering the car – but you must brake, shift gears, and keep a close eye on your surroundings while it steers the car. This feature can help prevent you from hitting other cars while parallel parking. 

Watch & Learn more about Automatic Parallel and/or Perpendicular Parking Assist

Advanced Driver WARNING Systems

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Forward Collision Warning + Autobrake as this technology is the best thing we have for preventing your car from crashing head-on into something (car, tree, etc).


Forward collision warning (FCW) is exactly what it sounds like – it is a warning when you are about to crash head-on into something. The type of warning varies – it can be a flashing light, a beep, a vibration of the steering wheel, a visual display on the instrument panel, or even a vibration or tightening of your seat belt.

Forward Collision Warning (without Autobrake)

↓27% Front-to-rear crashes

↓20% Front-to-rear crashes with injuries

↓7% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓14% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

The above data is from IIHS. It shows that forward collision warning is effective in reducing the number of crashes that occur as well as in preventing injuries when the crash wasn’t avoidable. But FCW will never eliminate all front-to-rear crashes because sometimes the warning comes too late – and you don’t have enough time to react and brake to avoid the crash. That’s why many new vehicles have FCW + autobrake – also called automatic emergency braking, or AEB.

Forward Collision Warning + Autobrake

↓50% Front-to-rear crashes

↓56% Front-to-rear crashes with injuries

↓13% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓21% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

Autobrake, also called automatic emergency braking, is also like it sounds. Autobrake is where the vehicle automatically brakes in an emergency situation. Cars with FCW + Autobrake will not only warn you that you are about to crash head-on into something, but the vehicle will take over and apply the brakes for you to help prevent the crash from occurring. Not all crashes are preventable – as it can take 170 feet for a car going 55mph to stop – but autobrake will reduce the speed at which the crash occurs (when the crash wasn’t preventable) which thereby decreases the risk of injury in that crash.

Watch & learn more about FCW & Autobrake

Forward Collision Warning (FCW)– With Rick & Scout
Automatic Emergency Braking - Move your mouse & your head to see automatic braking in 360
Front crash prevention
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) - With Rick & Dan
Crash Prevention - Automatic Emergency Braking

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Blind Spot Detection as it is proven effective in both preventing lane-change crashes and decreasing injury when the crash was not preventable.


Blind spot detection

↓14% Lane-change crashes

↓23% Lane-change crashes with injuries

↓9% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓12% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

As you can see from the above IIHS data, blind spot detection is an effective safety feature at reducing the number of crashes and injuries within the crashes that still occur.

Watch & Learn more about Blind Spot Detection

Blind Spot Monitoring - Just move your head or your mouse to see traffic on all sides
Blind Spot Monitoring and Sideview Camera – With Rick & Scout
Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) - Quick Guide Animation
Sideview Camera - Quick Guide Animation
Blind spot detection

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Lane Departure Warning as it is proven effective in both preventing crashes and decreasing injury when the crash was not preventable.


Lane Departure Warning (LDW) is exactly what it sounds like - it is the car warning you when you are veering out of your lane. The type of warning varies - it can be a flashing light, a beep, a vibration of the steering wheel, a visual display on the instrument panel, or even a vibration or tightening of your seat belt.

Lane Departure Warning

↓11% Single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes

↓21% Injury crashes of the same types

Lane Departure Warning, as shown from the IIHS data above, has proven itself effective in reducing the number of crashes that occur as well as in preventing injuries when the crash wasn't avoidable.

Watch & Learn More about Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Lane Centering

Lane Departure Warning & Lane Keeping Assist - Test Drive in VR 360
Are lane departure warning systems effective?
Lane departure warning and prevention
Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping  Assist - With Rick & Scout
Lane Departure Warning (LDW) - Quick Guide Animation
Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)- Quick Guide Animation

Key Take Away Point: Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems are effective at reducing crashes that occur while backing up.


Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems can detect cars that might be crossing as you back up - but may not detect pedestrians or cars behind you when parking spaces are angled. These alerts have been shown to reduce backing crashes by 22%. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is an enhanced feature found in some back-up cameras.

Watch & Learn more about Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Rear Cross Traffic Alert - Quick Guide Animation
Back-up Camera, Back-up Warning & more with Rick & Scout
Back-up Camera – Quick Guide
Back-up Warning - Quick Guide Animation
An Extra Set of Eyes!  Backup Cameras may help save lives.

Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - at MyCarDoesWhat.org Deeper Learning about Rear Cross Traffic Alerts

Parking sensors alert you to the position of objects around your car as you park - using cameras, sensors, and/or tones. Some even include lines that appear in your back-up camera. These sensors can help you avoid objects that are both in front of and behind your vehicle.

Watch & Learn more about Parking Sensors

Parking Sensors - at MyCarDoesWhat.org

Key Take Away Point: Drowsy driving kills thousands and injures tens of thousands in the US every year. Do your part to ensure you aren't driving drowsy - and look for a vehicle that might be able to warn you if you are losing attention due to fatigue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.


Drowsy Driver Detection systems do exactly what they sound like - they detect when the driver is drowsy and offer a warning.

How does it sense drowsiness? Some systems borrow from lane departure warning systems and monitor how much you are drifting out of your lane - as it is assumed that an alert driver will stay in their lane. Other systems learn your driving patterns while fully alert and then warn you if they sense that your driving is slower or erratic. Other systems use facial recognition technology to detect the eyelid droop & head bobs to tell if you are starting to fall asleep.  

Early studies suggest that drowsy driver detection technology will help prevent crashes - but a warning is only as effective as the driver's response to it. Specifically - does the driver find a spot to pull over and take a nap or change drivers - or does the driver ignore the warning and continue driving drowsy?

Learn the warning signs of drowsy driving

  • Yawning or blinking frequently
  • Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
  • Missing your exit
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
If you experience any of these warnings signs, pull over to rest or change drivers. Opening the window or turning up the radio are not effective ways to keep you alert. For more warning signs visit American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Watch & Learn more about Drowsy Driver Detection

Drowsiness Alert - Does my car really know if I'm drowsy? Take a VR 360 test drive.
CNET On Cars - Smarter driver: Drowsy-driving tech
Drowsiness Alert - With Rick and Scout
Drowsiness Alert - Quick Guide Animation

Drowsy Driver Detection - on MyCarDoesWhat.org

Key Take Away Point: Pedestrians account for at least 1/6th of all fatalities on our roads - and they die because vehicles drive head on into them, or backover them. Technology in vehicles that enhances the driver's view (like back-up cameras) and brakes for the driver (autobrake) can help prevent these tragedies.


In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed and at least 70,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States. Pedestrians can get hit in 2 different ways - the front of the car crashes into them, or the car backs into or over them.

Frontal crashes: Pedestrian detection systems look for pedestrians in front of the car and warn the driver if a crash is likely. Some systems will also apply the brakes to further help prevent hitting the pedestrian. The majority of pedestrian deaths happen at high speeds or in low light situations - and some pedestrian detection systems are only for low speeds and require good lighting, which obviously reduces the system's effectiveness. An IIHS analysis of 2005-2009 crash data "estimated that such pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations and 58 percent of pedestrian deaths in these crashes.7"

Backover crashes: There are several technologies that can help prevent back-over crashes - which is where the driver backs into (and worst case scenario runs over) a pedestrian. Rearview cameras and park assist systems can help prevent backover crashes by letting the driver see what is behind the car that can't be seen in the rear or side mirrors. The best technology is rear autobrake which applies the brakes if the driver is backing up into something - a pole, a car, or a person.

Watch & Learn more about Pedestrian & Bicycle Detection

Your Car is Talking, Are You Listening? Pedestrian & Bicycle Detection - With Rick & Scout
Backup Camera Monitoring - in VR 360 - move your head or your mouse to see your surroundings.
An Extra Set of Eyes!  Backup Cameras may help save lives.

Forward Collision Warning

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Forward Collision Warning + Autobrake as this technology is the best thing we have for preventing your car from crashing head-on into something (car, tree, etc).

Forward collision warning (FCW) is exactly what it sounds like - it is a warning when you are about to crash head-on into something.

The type of warning varies - it can be a flashing light, a beep, a vibration of the steering wheel, a visual display on the instrument panel, or even a vibration or tightening of your seat belt.

Forward Collision Warning

↓27% Front-to-rear crashes

↓20% Front-to-rear crashes with injuries

↓7% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓14% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

Forward collision warning, as shown from the IIHS data above, has proven itself effective in reducing the number of crashes that occur as well as in preventing injuries when the crash wasn't avoidable.

But FCW will never eliminate all front-to-rear crashes because sometimes the warning comes too late - and you don't have enough time to react and brake to avoid the crash. That's why many new vehicles have FCW + autobrake - also called automatic emergency braking, or AEB.

Forward Collision Warning + Autobrake

↓50% Front-to-rear crashes

↓56% Front-to-rear crashes with injuries

↓13% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓21% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

Autobrake, also called automatic emergency braking, is also like it sounds - it is where the vehicle automatically brakes in an emergency situation. Cars with FCW + Autobrake will not only warn you that you are about to crash head-on into something, but the vehicle will take over and apply the brakes for you to help prevent the crash from occurring. Not all crashes are preventable - as it can take 170 feet for a car going 55mph to stop - but autobrake will reduce the speed at which the crash occurs (when the crash wasn't preventable) which thereby decreases the risk of injury in that crash.

Watch & learn more about FCW & Autobrake

Forward Collision Warning (FCW)– With Rick & Scout
Automatic Emergency Braking - Move your mouse & your head to see automatic braking in 360
Front crash prevention
Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) - With Rick & Dan
Crash Prevention - Automatic Emergency Braking

Lane Departure Warning

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Lane Departure Warning as it is proven effective in both preventing crashes and decreasing injury when the crash was not preventable.

Lane Departure Warning (LDW) is exactly what it sounds like - it is the car warning you when you are veering out of your lane.

 

The type of warning varies - it can be a flashing light, a beep, a vibration of the steering wheel, a visual display on the instrument panel, or even a vibration or tightening of your seat belt.

Lane Departure Warning

↓11% Single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes

↓21% Injury crashes of the same types

Lane Departure Warning, as shown from the IIHS data above, has proven itself effective in reducing the number of crashes that occur as well as in preventing injuries when the crash wasn't avoidable.

Watch & Learn More about Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, and Lane Centering

Lane Departure Warning & Lane Keeping Assist - Test Drive in VR 360
Are lane departure warning systems effective?
Lane departure warning and prevention
Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keeping  Assist - With Rick & Scout
Lane Departure Warning (LDW) - Quick Guide Animation
Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)- Quick Guide Animation

Blind Spot Detection

Key Take Away Point: You want a vehicle with Blind Spot Detection as it is proven effective in both preventing lane-change crashes and decreasing injury when the crash was not preventable.

Blind spot detection

↓14% Lane-change crashes

↓23% Lane-change crashes with injuries

↓9% Claim rates for damage to other vehicles

↓12% Claim rates for injuries to people in other vehicles

As you can see from the above IIHS data, blind spot detection is an effective safety feature at reducing the number of crashes and injuries within the crashes that still occur.

Watch & Learn more about Blind Spot Detection

Blind Spot Monitoring - Just move your head or your mouse to see traffic on all sides
Blind Spot Monitoring and Sideview Camera – With Rick & Scout
Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) - Quick Guide Animation
Sideview Camera - Quick Guide Animation
Blind spot detection

Drowsy Driver Detection

Key Take Away Point: Drowsy driving kills thousands and injures tens of thousands in the US every year. Do your part to ensure you aren't driving drowsy - and look for a vehicle that might be able to warn you if you are losing attention due to fatigue.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.

Drowsy Driver Detection systems do exactly what they sound like - they detect when the driver is drowsy and then offer a warning. How does it sense drowsiness? Some systems borrow from lane departure warning systems and monitor how much you are drifting out of your lane - as it is assumed that an alert driver will stay in their lane. Other systems learn your driving patterns while fully alert and then warn you if they sense that your driving is slower or erratic. Other systems use facial recognition technology to detect the eyelid droop & head bobs to tell if you are starting to fall asleep.  Early studies suggest that drowsy driver detection technology will help prevent crashes - but a warning is only as effective as the driver's response to it. Specifically - does the driver find a spot to pull over and take a nap or change drivers - or does the driver ignore the warning and continue driving drowsy?

Learn the warning signs of drowsy driving

  • Yawning or blinking frequently
  • Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
  • Missing your exit
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road

If you experience any of these warnings signs, pull over to rest or change drivers. Opening the window or turning up the radio are not effective ways to keep you alert. For more warning signs visit American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Watch & Learn more about Drowsy Driver Detection

Drowsiness Alert - Does my car really know if I'm drowsy? Take a VR 360 test drive.
CNET On Cars - Smarter driver: Drowsy-driving tech
Drowsiness Alert - With Rick and Scout
Drowsiness Alert - Quick Guide Animation

Drowsy Driver Detection - on MyCarDoesWhat.org

Pedestrian & Bicycle Detection

Key Take Away Point: Pedestrians account for at least 1/6th of all fatalities on our roads - and they die because vehicles drive head on into them, or backover them. Technology in vehicles that enhances the driver's view (like back-up cameras) and brakes for the driver (autobrake) can help prevent these tragedies.

In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed and at least 70,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States.

Pedestrians can get hit in 2 different ways - the front of the car crashes into them, or the car backs into or over them.

Frontal crashes: Pedestrian detection systems look for pedestrians in front of the car and warn the driver if a crash is likely. Some systems will also apply the brakes to further help prevent hitting the pedestrian. The majority of pedestrian deaths happen at high speeds or in low light situations - and some pedestrian detection systems are only for low speeds and require good lighting, which obviously reduces the system's effectiveness. An IIHS analysis of 2005-2009 crash data "estimated that such pedestrian detection systems could potentially mitigate or prevent up to 65 percent of single-vehicle crashes with pedestrians in the three most common crash configurations and 58 percent of pedestrian deaths in these crashes.7"

Backover crashes: There are several technologies that can help prevent back-over crashes - which is where the driver backs into (and worst case scenario runs over) a pedestrian. Rearview cameras and park assist systems can help prevent backover crashes by letting the driver see what is behind the car that can't be seen in the rear or side mirrors. The best technology is rear autobrake which applies the brakes if the driver is backing up into something - a pole, a car, or a person.

Watch & Learn more about Pedestrian & Bicycle Detection

Your Car is Talking, Are You Listening? Pedestrian & Bicycle Detection - With Rick & Scout
Backup Camera Monitoring - in VR 360 - move your head or your mouse to see your surroundings.
An Extra Set of Eyes!  Backup Cameras may help save lives.

Parking Sensors

Parking sensors alert you to the position of objects around your car as you park - using cameras, sensors, and/or tones. Some even include lines that appear in your back-up camera. These sensors can help you avoid objects that are both in front of and behind your vehicle.

Watch & Learn more about Parking Sensors

Parking Sensors - at MyCarDoesWhat.org

Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Key Take Away Point: Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems are effective at reducing crashes that occur while backing up.

Rear Cross-Traffic Alert systems can detect cars that might be crossing as you back up - but may not detect pedestrians or cars behind you when parking spaces are angled. These alerts have been shown to reduce backing crashes by 22%. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is an enhanced feature found with some back-up camera systems.

Watch & Learn more about Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

Rear Cross Traffic Alert - Quick Guide Animation
Back-up Camera, Back-up Warning & more with Rick & Scout
Back-up Camera – Quick Guide
Back-up Warning - Quick Guide Animation
An Extra Set of Eyes!  Backup Cameras may help save lives.

Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - at MyCarDoesWhat.org

Deeper Learning ab