September 14, 2017 8:51 am
Most South African vehicle owners spend a really long time traveling to and from work, dropping kids at school, doing the groceries and perhaps going away for the weekend. Certainly time on the road is not as safe as being at home, and when you consider all the time spent traveling, it’s good to know that modern cars have quite a lot to offer in terms of safety features.
Vehicle safety has come a long way in the last 20 years and most modern cars today offer ABS brakes and have protective crumple zones to lessen the impact and absorb the crash energy. These “hardware” features of cars have saved many lives over the decades and without doubt the addition of airbags and active seat restraints have further protected us. They also help in reducing the cost of car insurance, as safer cars mean fewer accidents.
But these are the obvious safety features, they respond to vehicles that have entered an uncontrolled state and lessen the damage to passengers. What about the less obvious features in our cars that promote a safer driving experience and are largely software or tech features?
Passive Technology Helps Us Focus (and keeps us safer)
It’s not all about speed though, too often we spend many hours a week sitting in mind-numbing traffic, crawling along trying to be positive about the state of congestion. It’s quite common to see accidents happen at near walking speed all because drivers are distracted or just zoning out. Below are a few helpful features of modern cars that rely on technology to keep us focused and therefore safer.
Blind spot indicators – Often built into the left and right side mirrors – little lights flash brightly when a car is present in your blindspot. Obviously this is a great safety feature at high speed and at best, an accident avoidance feature that should help you make safer lane changes.
Road Sign Detection – High Definition Cameras scan the road side and detect road signs and either warn or guide us as to speed limits and or other alerts such as Stop Signs and Hazards. These are typically displayed in the vehicles central display panel and while they don’t actively manage your speed – they can help you stay safer by reminding you that the speed limit has changed.
PDC Sensors – Whilst Park Distance Control sensors can be annoying when hawkers and pedestrians walk too close to your stationary car, they are invaluable when it comes to alerting you of your crawl speed proximity to the car ahead. I’m sure that we have all benefited from small collision avoidance at some point.
Kilometres till empty – Another one of those helpful features that help you avoid being stuck on the roadside at night where terrible accidents often happen. What does a ¼ tank really give you? Who knows, but with the more accurate “Kilometres Till Empty” warning you can be sure to find a petrol station before it’s too late.
Auto Dim Rear View Mirrors – Few things can be more annoying than the guy behind you who has his headlights on the high beam or just plain “brights” as we South Africans call it. This hands-free solution has made night driving much safer and many modern cars have the wing mirrors activated as well. An incredibly smart solution that keeps your night vision in focus and your hands on the wheel for those winter drives home.
Adaptive headlights – Quite simply, these are lights that follow the curve of the road! Given that almost half of fatal accidents happen at night, any technology that can help shed light where it’s needed is worth paying for. It’s a bit like shining your torch at what you want to see, instead of only moving your body.
Headlights auto off – Not necessarily a safety feature per se, but not being stuck in a parking lot somewhere having to ask a stranger for jumper leads or a push start (for non automatics) means you’re just a bit safer.
Door and boot open warnings – Now this might not be so obvious to the uninitiated, but if you have ever driven around a sharp corner and your door flies open, then I can assure you that it’s terrifyingly distracting and will most likely cause you to swerve off the road and possibly crash. Not only is it distracting, but your car’s doors add structural integrity to the vehicle and prevent your arms and legs from being flung out in the event of a crash. Those “open door” warnings are very welcome!
Self Parking – This is a fairly new innovation and whilst it might not scream Safety, it could help you spend less time on a busy street trying to parallel park. Your vehicle is often blocking the road when performing this delicate procedure and less exposure equals less risk.
Voice Commands & Bluetooth – If you’ve not had much joy from attempting to figure out your cars phonebook and voice commands, then don’t stress as most smartphones understand you perfectly. Connecting your phone to your car via Bluetooth is as simple as peeling a banana and making calls is simple and safe.
Google Maps for GPS. Save your Work and Home address before you set off. TOP TIP! How to zoom one-handed. Ever tried to pinch-zoom your Google Maps when one hand is on the phone – it’s near impossible. Great news is that you can one handed zoom without doing the pinch!
Double tap your screen but instead of letting go on the second tap – hold your finger there and then swipe up to zoom out, or swipe down to zoom in. The swipe-up / zooming out is probably most useful as you can double tap to zoom in anyway. This should make your Google Maps navigation just that much safer as you can keep one hand on the wheel at all times. Please note: You should never drive and use your phone at the same time, its illegal and a bad idea.
Speed Kills – So Slow Down, Focus and Stay Safe
Tyre Pressure Monitors – Your cars ability to steer and brake are dependent on its road holding abilities, and your tyres are the first and last point of contact to the road. If they should lose tyre pressure whilst driving you are at high risk of losing control and you might not notice it immediately. However, should you need to do an emergency stop and your front tyre is lacking in pressure, you’ll lose control of your car. Instead of looking at your economy reading or distance travelled, you should consider leaving your tyre pressure readout on so that you can monitor each tyre and stop to either inflate or repair in case of loss of pressure. It’s interesting to note that your tyre pressure increases considerably as they warm up over long distances and can sometimes increase by over 0.5 bar within an hour. This is completely normal and once they cool the pressure will reduce again.
Speed Limiters – Something that most of us fall foul of when driving those long stretches of National Road through the Karoo – excess speed! It’s easy to forget that 120km/h limit when the road stretches on seemingly forever. You can however rely on the Beaufort West traffic cops to remind you! Best be safe and set you cars Speed Limiter to avoid going faster than is necessary. TOP TIP: did you know that in case you need to overtake another car, you can kick your pedal all the way down and the speed limiter will be temporarily disabled, allowing you to safely complete the maneuver. Once past, you slow down normally and the limiter will be active again.
Adaptive Cruise Control (with Crash Avoidance System) – This is without a doubt a top safety feature for high speed driving. It works in a very similar way to normal cruise control, but in addition you set the following distance to the car in front of you and your desired top speed. The Adaptive Cruise Control system will monitor the gap between cars and slow down or speed up depending on the distance to the car in front. If you have the Crash Avoidance System (or Pre-Crash System) fitted, in the case of a sudden decrease of speed from the car ahead, your car will apply emergency brakes and ready itself for impact by pre-tensioning your seat belts. In some instances, your car may even automatically swerve to avoid the collision without any driver input.
Many cars use radar or laser to track the distance, whilst Subaru’s Eyesight Tech uses stereo cameras.
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This post was written by Compare Car Insurance