Car safety features have come a long way as manufacturers have tried to make vehicles more and more secure.
Three-point seatbelts were supplemented by airbags. After the anti-lock braking system (ABS) was introduced, traction control soon followed.
Cars today are also made with larger amounts of high-strength steel, giving passenger cells a greater ability to withstand impacts before deforming.
And it won’t stop there. Here are six advanced functions you should look out for when shopping for a car.
FRONT/REAR CROSS-TRAFFIC ALERT
What it does: Watches for traffic and pedestrians coming from the left or right of the car.
Since most of us reverse into carpark spaces, it’s easier for us to look out for oncoming vehicles or pedestrians when we drive off. But how many times have you come back to your vehicle to find that a taller one – such as an SUV, panel van or lorry – parked beside yours?
This makes it difficult to spot approaching cars, cyclists and pedestrians. In a multi-storey carpark, it’s even trickier because many drivers don’t switch on their headlights.
A safety feature like front/rear cross-traffic alert can warn you of approaching hazards, providing that much needed secondary layer of safety.
BLIND SPOT MONITOR
What it does: Watches a car’s blinds spots and alerts the driver if there is another vehicle when he or she changes lanes.
Blind spot monitors are a car safety feature that should be more widely available. They can greatly reduce the risk of accidents.
I have witnessed numerous near-misses because a driver has switched lanes without checking his blind spot. Hitting another car is bad news. But it could be fatal if the driver in question sideswipes a motorcyclist.
There are too many riders who, for whatever reason, position themselves in drivers’ blind spots.
LANE KEEP ASSIST
What it does: Helps drivers keep their cars within the centre of a lane by autonomously applying gentle steering inputs.
Depending on the system, this car safety feature can also alert the driver using steering wheel vibrations and/or audio alerts if he or she changes lanes without indicating.
It can prove useful in helping keep distracted drivers in check. But like all driving aids, it must always be treated as a complement to a skilled and attentive driver.
ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
What it does: Automatically adjusts the car’s speed and distance to the vehicle in front of it.
Both a convenience and a safety feature, adaptive cruise control (sometimes called dynamic cruise control) can be a boon on long drives. The driver sets a speed and preferred distance to the vehicle in front, and the system does the rest.
Unlike conventional cruise control systems, adaptive cruise control can slow your car to a halt instead of letting it ram the car in front. Though useful, this system is not entirely fool-proof. Rain and/or poor visibility can affect it and render it unusable until conditions improve.
What it does: Detects pedestrians, vehicles or other cyclists approaching from behind and warns you not to open your door.
Not everyone has the presence of mind to turn around and look behind the car before opening their door. This car safety feature is designed with that situation in mind.
Alerts can be both audio and visual, the latter if the car has mood or ambient lighting.
As with all safety features, this one must be treated as a second line of defence. As a driver, it is your duty to always remain attentive and aware of the situation around you.
REAR SEAT REMINDER
What it does: Reminds you to check the backseat before exiting the vehicle.
We have all forgotten to take our bag with us when we’re in a hurry. And sometimes, harried parents may forget about their child still secured to the child seat!
This car safety feature remembers when the rear door is opened after the vehicle is unlocked. When the engine is switched off and the driver opens his door, the reminder is triggered.