The cost of insuring a car is, at least in theory, directly proportional to the chances of crashing that vehicle. It’s one of the reasons a 1990 Honda Acura (a light, powerful car with little more than seatbelts for safety) costs a lot more to insure than a new Ford Fiesta, despite the fact that the fiesta costs far more to buy.
Modern car safety features are a lot more intelligent than you might imagine. What’s more, the features found on the safest cars are no longer the preserve of those driving luxury German sedans – they are becoming required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a rolling basis, with electronic stability control being made mandatory from the 2012 model year.
What Does This Mean For Insurance?
Car insurance companies are not well known for leaping to reduce your insurance premiums. Modern safety or security features are often overlooked when constructing your risk profile, especially if the company in question does not have any knowledge of the feature or they have not yet adjusted their policies to account for it.
Whenever you buy a new car, make sure you inform your insurance company of all security and safety features fitted to the vehicle. Doing so could help to reduce your premiums. If your insurance company won’t offer you a better deal for driving a safer vehicle, find another insurance company.
Ten Modern Safety Features Your Car Should Have
There are some new gadgets out there, and some new takes on old ones, that can make cars a lot safer than they were even ten years ago. Here’s our pick of the best:
1) Tire Pressure Sensors
Tire pressure is often overlooked as a cause of accidents, and many people aren’t even entirely sure what their vehicle’s preferred tire pressure is. Low pressure can cause handling problems and drastically reduce fuel consumption. High pressure can increase the risk of a blowout, which can often lead to rollovers when driving at high speed.
Tire pressure sensors are required on all vehicles weighing under 10,000 lbs made after 2008.
2) Collision Monitoring Systems
These first appeared simultaneously on the 2009 Mercedes Benz S-Class and comparative Volvo and BMW models, and have met with lukewarm responses, despite their obvious safety advantage. In a nutshell this technology uses radar and other sensors to detect when a collision is imminent. It then either warns you, or literally takes control of the vehicle away from you to avoid the accident.
When coupled with intelligent braking systems, this can be a highly effective accident prevention gadget. You can see below in the video segment on the S-Class from Top Gear how this works:
3) Blind Spot Detection
We’ve all done it: turned into a lane only to hear a horn blaring, and suddenly catching a glimpse of the car you were about to hit because it was in your blind spot. A simple but effective new invention uses a sensor to warn you if you hit your turning signal when there is a car in your blind spot.
4) Lane Departure Warnings
These don’t work on roads without markings, but in all other cases they can save lives. Simply put: a sensor picks up where the lines on the road are, and lets you know if you stray over one without putting on a turn signal. The danger of lane drifting is that it happens to drivers who are not focusing on the road. When they notice that they have drifted, they sometimes over-correct, causing accidents.
This is how one of these systems works on the new Infiniti sedans:
5) Driver Status Monitoring
Often going hand-in-hand with lane departure warnings, these systems use things like sensors in your seats or internal cameras to monitor the driver’s attention to the road. It watches things like eye movements and posture, and makes a little beep if you take your eyes off the road or if they close.
6) Occupant-Sensitive Airbags and Seat Belts
Seat belts and airbags are nothing new, and save over 10,000 lives per year, but there are numerous horror stories of people getting broken necks from air bags, or child seatbelts actually killing children. Fortunately, these technologies improve all the time. From five-point harnesses for children to dual-stage airbags.
One concept that looks particularly promising is this “Air seatbelt-bag” device that simultaneously cushions you from impact, supports your neck, and prevents you from moving:
7) Rollover Prevention
If a vehicle is going to tip over at high speed, there is not a lot that can be done to prevent it. However, manufacturers have taken great steps in the last few decades by making cars have wider wheelbases, lower centers of gravity and better roll bars.
The latest generation of anti-roll technologies goes beyond this, however, with systems that will take control over the car to slow it down more effectively than a (panicked) human ever could. They can even go as far as to alter the suspension to lower the car’s center of gravity if a roll is imminent. Even if it does take place, this will cause the car to roll fewer times, reducing the risk of injury.
8) Dynamic Brake Control
ABS has been around for decades, but that doesn’t mean the technology is the same as it was in 1989. Newer cars almost don’t need a human driver (or could do better without one) in an emergency. ABS automatically applies short bursts of braking power instead of a human’s natural reaction of slamming them on, which reduces the risk of losing traction.
Newer ABS systems, such as BMW’s Dynamic Brake Control, can even vary the amount of braking pressure, depending on what is required.
9) Adaptive Headlights and Night Vision
Modern luxury sedans started having adaptive headlights over ten years ago. These lights aim in the direction you are turning, or widen when you turn, so that you can see what’s coming up the road in the dark.
Night vision, usually accessed through a camera, allows you to see animals and obstructions, even at night in heavy fog.
10) Parking Assist and Rear-view Cameras
While these technologies might not be saving your life any time soon, they can prevent a lot of damage (or backing over a child in your driveway). The best example of this kind of technology being fitted on an affordable modern car is the Volkswagen Passat. This system shows you a video image of your parking space, asks you if it’s okay, and then proceeds to park itself, without any errors.
This kind of technology can drastically reduce your insurance premiums, as it reduces the chance of small bumps and scrapes in the mall parking lot. Here’s an I-Robotesque video of it doing its thing: