11 Car Features That Make Driving Safer

Lane Departure Warning System

Hitting the road this summer? Driving a car equipped with some of the latest bells and whistles can make your journey safer and more fun. That's the take-away from a recent Harris poll that focused on automobile technologies designed to create a better ride.

Unsurprisingly, respondents said that a vehicle's features can significantly impact the driving experience. These car features get a thumbs up for making road trips safer.

Blind spot monitor system: This feature senses cars or people in your blind spot and warns you with an audible or visual alert, such as a ring of light around your sideview mirror. Some systems use a camera to show visual footage of what’s in your blind spot. This feature is particularly helpful in minivans and SUVs with difficult blind spots. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they feel safer in a vehicle that advises the driver when there are other vehicles in its blind spots.

Lane departure warning system: This feature uses road markings to detect if your car is drifting without a turn signal and will alert you with a sound, flashing light or vibration. Cars with more advanced systems will intervene with corrective steering or braking. Eighty-four percent of adults said they feel safer when their vehicle warns the driver if it senses it is drifting out of a lane.

Adaptive cruise control: Cruise control has been around forever, but adaptive cruise control does mroe than keep the car at a constant speed; it uses radar to detect traffic patterns and will regulate speed accordingly. Besides setting speed parameters, the driver also decides how much distance to leave from the car in front. 

More than three out of four respondents (77 percent) said they feel safer in a vehicle that maintains a speed set by the driver but slows down if it comes too close to the vehicle in front. Comparatively, 62 percent of adults said they feel safer when traveling in a vehicle with traditional cruise control.

Built-in navigation system: Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents said they feel safer when the vehicle contains a GPS system.

Self-driving capabilities: Interestingly, less than half of respondents (42 percent) said they'd feel safer in a car that could drive itself, while over a third (35 percent) said such technology makes them feel less safe.

More Car Safety Features

Other safety features to look for include: 

Electronic stability control: This feature slows individual wheels during a turn to keep a car on course.

Collision avoidance system: This features allows your vehicle to detect an impending collision with another vehicle or large object, and slow or stop before it happens through an emergency braking system. The system can be for highway speeds, but some operate only at lower speeds. The driver will get an alert if a collision is imminent.

Adaptive headlights: This feature adusts headlight forward illumination based on road conditions, and even helps drivers see around curves.

Active park assist: Hallelujah! This feature helps parallel park the car with no steering from the driver. You pull up alongside the car in front of an open spot, and your car uses cameras and radar to park itself. You may need to switch into R or D, and regulate the brakes, but the hard part of navigating into an open spot is handled by the car.

360-degree camera: This feature improves visibility when backing up or parking. At minimum, look for a backup camera, which is becoming a standardized feature. Also called rearview cameras, backup cameras provide live footage of what’s behind your car, viewable from a screen on your dashboard or rearview mirror. Federal rules will require backup cameras on all new vehicles starting in 2018.

Drowsiness alert: This feature uses vehicle or driver data to signal when it's time for a break. Sensors detect erratic driving, such as drifting across the road or sudden deceleration. 

Which Car Safety Features are Most Important

With so many car features available, how do you know which ones are most important? Look for features that help fill in driving gaps. For example, if you have a less-experienced driver such as a teen, look for electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision avoidance technology. If you will be driving at night, look for drowsiness alert and adaptive headlights.