Safer cars, better drivers

  • Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 12:08 a.m.

Remember the car trips of long ago? The kids piled into the station wagon and away we went — without seat belts, airbags, backup sensors or sometimes even a seat. The kids just rolled around in the cargo compartment, often while the adults up front tapped cigarette ashes out the window vent between puffs.

It sounds like a simpler day, but not many of us would feel safe traveling that way today. Seat belts save lives — as do airbags and the amazing array of safety features built into today’s motor vehicles. While there’s much to lament in the world today, we can all be grateful for safety advances auto companies now build into cars and trucks.

The improvements include features that warn drowsy or distracted drivers of impending collisions or lane changes — something that might have saved Tony McCoy, a young man from Rowan County who died after he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tractor trailer in 2010. He was only 23. In an interview in Monday’s Post, mother Kim McCoy shared the story of Tony’s death.

Unfortunately, new safety features are usually introduced on luxury models and only later becomes available on a wider basis. Safety comes at a cost.

Auto makers have gone a long way to protect passengers in a crash, and now the trend is toward creating technologies for crash prevention, according toConsumer Reports. The features below have either already turned up in some cars or appear just over the horizon:

• Next-generation stability control goes further to help a driver maintain control.

• Curtain airbags protect passengers in front and back and shield them from debris.

• Pre-collision systems can alert drivers and then go on to fully charge brakes and air bags, close windows and adjust seat positions for optimal air-bag effectiveness.

• Adaptive cruise control maintains safe distances.

• Lane departure warnings alert drowsy or distracted drivers.

• Brake assist detects panic braking and boosts braking capability.

• Night vision uses infrared technology to allow a driver to see objects beyond the reach of a car’s headlights.

• Active head restraints move forward in a collision to prevent whiplash.

• Run-flat tires can prevent the need to change tires in bad weather or dangerous areas.

These and other innovations could soon make driving safer than ever — and make drivers better than ever.

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