Car manufacturers are continually at work in attempt to make their vehicles safer on the roadways. New safety features are applied, and sometimes mandated in newer cars every year.
Unfortunately, some of us may tend to forget the built-in safety features of our cars. As winter weather approaches, we think it’s important to know what safety features your car has and how they work. So, with help from MyCarDoesWhat, we’re going to discuss some safety features your car may have that could come in handy during the winter season, when driving conditions get more and more dangerous. We’ll touch on what they do, how to use them, and how to make sure they work when you need them to.
The ABS (“Anti-Lock Braking System”) has been around for about 20 years, so it’s equipped in most cars on the road. Functioning ABSs help prevent your cars’ wheels from locking up in an abrupt stop. This gives you the ability to steer in a safe direction and possibly avoid an accident. Without ABS, you would need to pump your brakes to maintain traction keep your wheels from locking up.
If you do have ABS, it may show up on your dashboard when you turn your car on. You can also check your car’s user manual to see if it has ABS. Make sure you know whether your car has ABS or not. If it does, it could really help you maintain traction during a hard stop so you can steer clear of an accident and into a safe zone.
The Blind-Spot Monitor is quite the safety feature. Every car has a blind spot – that area on the left/right side of your car which your side-view mirror simply can’t show. The Blind-Spot Monitor can make up for this. It works with sensors, sometimes located under the side view mirror or bumper. When it detects an object on your side, it will alert you – sometimes with a sound, and sometimes with a signal located on your side view mirror or the A pillar of your car (see image below). Some cars come with a side view camera. Much like the back-up camera, it will show what’s on the side of your car when you use your turning signal. Make sure you know if your car has a side view blind-spot monitor or camera. If it does, learn all its settings with the car’s user manual so you can utilize it correctly while driving.
Having a Blind-Spot Monitor should not suggest you no longer need to check your blind spot before switching lanes, though. A Blind-Spot sensor may miss motorcycles or motor vehicles that are driving too fast or too slow. And, much like the back-up camera, it can be faulty. Snow, ice, fog, or dirt can obstruct its view. It’s a good idea to learn where your blind-spot sensors or cameras are located so you can clean them regularly.
This feature is quite the breakthrough. Cars with Lane-Departure Warning are set up with cameras that detect the painted lines on the road (which delineate lanes) and alert the driver if they are swerving out of their lane. In some cars with this feature, if a driver is swerving out of their lane, the car will even readjust the steering to get them back in their lane. This feature has serious potential to prevent an accident.
But, its efficacy is dependent on the cameras’ clarity as well as the visibility of the road’s surface markings. And, since snow is on its way, you can be sure that there will be times when the lanes on the road aren’t visible enough to this feature’s cameras. These cameras can also get dirty. So, as with all safety features that use a camera or sensor, it’s a good idea to know where they are so you can clean them regularly. Check your car’s user manual to find out where they are and perhaps how to clean them.
The Tire Pressure Monitoring System will alert you with a symbol on your dashboard if it detects deflation in your car tire pressure. This feature comes in handy especially during the winter time, when cold weather tends to, by nature, deflate your car’s air pressure.
If your car’s tires are deflated, you could end up experiencing what’s known as a “blow out”. Your tire(s) could pop on you while you’re driving. This is a dangerous scenario while driving at any speed. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on your tires to make sure they have enough air in them. Car manufacturers have been required to install them in every new car since 2008. Proper tire pressure can improve your car’s handling, gas mileage (or MPG), and can even extend the life of your tires. So, if your car has a Tire-Pressure Monitoring System, and you see the symbol appear, check your tires and properly inflate them.
Adaptive Headlights are a relatively new safety feature that help drivers see better on curvy roads. If your car has Adaptive Headlights, when you turn your wheel, your headlights will swivel in the direction you’re turning. According to WhatMyCarDoes, one study showed that drivers with Adaptive Headlights were able to see objects in front of them faster than drivers without Adaptive Headlights. They’re quite the safety feature. See if your car has them.
Brake Assist is a brilliant safety feature. It’s been proven that when drivers are in a situation that could lead to an accident, they may not hit the brakes as fast as they should or as hard as they should. When you do make an abrupt stop, the Brake Assist feature will automatically “assume” you are trying to avoid an accident. It will apply extra pressure on the brakes to make up for that lag time in your reaction to a potential accident as well as the potential that you’re not braking as hard as you should be to avoid said accident. This feature could potentially stop an accident or potentially make it less catastrophic. Check your car’s user manual to see if you have Brake Assist.
This safety feature comes particularly in handy on wintery road conditions. It works with your GPS to determine if you’re driving too fast to make an upcoming turn. When it’s snow, rainy, or icy out, always take it slow on the road. If you’re driving too fast during a turn, you could end up going into a skid. However, it’s important to remember that this too is a technology capable of making mistakes. There may be turns the system is unaware of. And the system doesn’t hit the brake for you. It’s up to you to fully assess the conditions of the road and what speed you should be going at, especially when you have an upcoming turn.
These are just a few car safety features that may help you when the roads get slippery. Not all cars have these safety features. But now that winter is coming up, you should crack open your car’s user manual and check out the safety features it does have. They’re only valuable if you know how and when to use them.
Stay tuned for more posts on driving during the wintertime…