Best car safety features for driving in winter

October 3, 2013 12:00 AM

If you're thinking about purchasing a new car, safety should definitely be one of your top priorities. However, winter weather often creates more challenging conditions for driving, meaning you'll need to look for certain features to ensure that all passengers are secure. Additionally, if you're purchasing a used car, you'll want to get it checked out to make sure it doesn't need a tune up, tire alignment or brake service.

Before investing in a vehicle, these are some of the high-tech aspects that you should consider:

Collision avoidance systems
Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told Bankrate that he believes collision avoidance systems currently of the most beneficial safety features. These systems contain cameras, radar and other sensors to keep track of vehicles in front of you so that if you come too close, you're alerted. In some cases, your car may even automatically brake if you don't respond after the warning. According to the news source, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that SUVs with a low-speed forward-collision avoidance system experienced nearly one-third fewer property damage liability claims because of a reduction in rear-end crashes.

Electronic stability control
Because you'll likely be driving on slippery roads in the winter, ESC is an important feature to maintain control, particularly when you're making a high-speed or sudden turn. The Whiplash Prevention Campaign explained that this technology includes a microcomputer and sensors that can analyze your steering and trigger the brakes or adjust the engine power in a situation where you may be spinning out of control. Essentially, it monitors your intended direction and initial braking and compares those aspects to your car's actual response in relation to the wheel speeds and rotation. The ESC can then decrease engine power or automatically apply the brakes to individual wheels if you're under- or over-steering until you have control again.

According to the source, research by the Institute of Highway Safety found that this feature can reduce the chance of collisions by more than 40 percent, and fatal accidents by 56 percent. If all cars came with ESC, the institute predicted that up to 10,000 crashes could be prevented each year. The Whiplash Prevention Campaign also noted that this technology is especially useful for avoiding rollovers with SUVs, vans and pickup trucks.

Anti-lock brakes
Traditional braking systems cause tires to lock in place when the road is icy or slick, which can lead to skidding - but anti-lock braking technology can counteract this risk. Auto Trader explained that this feature instantly triggers the breaks without locking the tires. When you're in a situation where you need to stop rapidly, especially on a wet or icy road, this system is crucial. The source recommended looking for a vehicle that's equipped with electronic brake force distribution, which can target exactly which wheels may be slipping out of control for a more accurate response.

Lane departure warning
Unintentional swerving into another lane, which is a major cause of crashes, can be prevented with this system. Basically, sensors can tell when you drift over the markings and into another lane and alerts you, either with a visual signal or sound alert. Bankrate noted that this technology is especially useful when it's supported with forward-collision avoidance systems, blind-spot detection and adaptive headlights. In fact, the combination of these features can prevent one-third of all crashes and furthermore, one-fifth of all injury-related incidents.

Traction Control
In certain cases, you may jolt forward with such speed and force that the car's tires begin to slip due to the condition of the road. The Whiplash Prevention Campaign explained that this feature can monitor the wheel traction and either increase or decrease the brake pressure for optimal contact with the road.

While this technology used to be limited to high-performance cars, it is becoming a more mainstream safety feature.

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