A growing array of advanced safety technology is now available as either standard or optional equipment on most new cars, trucks and SUVs. To help you make decisions about which features are most important to you; Active safety features are meant to keep you from getting into an accident, versus “passive” safety equipment, such as seat belts and airbags, which protect you if you’re in an accident. We hope this list will make choosing active safety features easier when you’re shopping for a new vehicle.
The first three items — forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive headlights and rearview cameras — generally received the most positive comments or ratings. But some research studies found the other features on the list to be worthwhile, and one or more may be just what you need, depending on your driving environment, driving style and personal preferences.
What you won’t find here is safety equipment that is currently government-mandated as standard equipment for passenger cars and light trucks, such as seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.
Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking
This technology is also called automatic emergency braking or forward collision mitigation. These systems have sensors that detect vehicles or objects in front of you and send a signal to a computer that evaluates the closure rate. If the system decides there’s danger of a collision, it triggers a visual or audible signal or both. But if you don’t respond quickly enough, it automatically applies the brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of a crash.
Now widely available as standard or optional equipment on many car models, these systems have received generally positive ratings in government and industry evaluations. IIHS research shows that vehicles equipped with this technology are clearly less likely to rear-end other vehicles. And the Highway Loss Data Institute has found that such systems, along with adaptive headlights, show the biggest crash reductions of any automated safety features.
You should be aware, however, that testing by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that automatic braking systems “vary widely in design and performance.” In tests, those designed to prevent collisions reduced vehicle speed by 79 percent, while those intended just to lessen crash severity only reduced speed by 40 percent. So take that into consideration if this feature is important to you.