What is the most important safety feature in a car? The Auto Professor Answers
The Most Important Safety Feature Depends on Who You Are
In 2006, my car was hit from behind twice, in three weeks. I wish those drivers had forward collision warning systems. If they had, maybe my neck wouldn’t still hurt.
Both crashes were the result of young drivers not paying attention. One fellow, in a mid-size SUV, was reaching for a CD (remember, that was 2006). The other was a woman in a minivan, who was trying to feed her crying infant … in the rear seat.
As drivers, we sometimes do crazy things. So if you can afford it, I highly recommend a forward collision warning (FCW) system for your next car. Here’s why.
Research from The Auto Professor shows that FCW systems could prevent up to 25% of all crashes.
Just as its name implies, this system alerts the driver to a possible crash into the car in front of you. Some systems work together with automatic braking to take over the car, stopping or slowing it before impact.
Others give an audible sound or vibrate the wheel to alert the driver – then you need to apply the brake. In these systems, the braking system may also work faster once you start applying pressure to the pedal.
Where FCW Falls Short
But don’t expect the system to save you from all rear-end crashes. Here are three scenarios in which you’re likely on your own.
Low vs. Highway Driving
- These systems are designed and tested to work in low-speed situations. So they work best on surface streets or in slow-moving highway traffic.
- Sometimes, these systems will help in high-speed situations, especially if the automatic braking system works with the forward collision warning system to slow the car.
Limitations Due to Weather
- They are not designed and tested to work in rain, snow or fog. Part of the problem is the technology needs to ‘see’ the other car. Keeping the sensors clean can help.
‘Forward’ Only Means Forward
- That is, these systems are designed to warn the driver to slow down or stop when the vehicle immediately in front is slowing or stopped. So you won’t get a warning at an intersection if you’re about to hit cross-traffic.
As drivers, we sometimes do crazy things. So if you can afford it, The Auto Professor highly recommends a forward collision warning (FCW) system for your next car. My research shows that FCW systems could prevent up to 25% of all crashes.
As long as these systems are optional, bundling likely will be the marketing approach of most car companies. And that’s unfortunate because it can increase the price of a car hundreds or thousands of dollars. But by 2022, according to a voluntary agreement with the federal government, most manufacturers will have FCW as standard equipment on their cars.
Studies have shown that consumers who buy these systems like them.
Maybe; it depends on the system. Some only warn the driver to stop, some help the driver with more rapid braking and other systems actually do the braking. It all depends on the make-model, and of course, the cost.
If you love to tailgate, you may hate this system.
Not necessarily. The technology is expensive, so if there is any kind of crash, then the repairs can be very expensive.
Your teenager will probably like it, but professionals suggest that new drivers should learn to drive without depending on these systems.
Ask for It by Name
Each manufacturer has a different name for the system. Some even have different names in different models. And that can be confusing for car buyers. Here are a few of the names I’ve seen: pre-crash system, forward crash warning, collision avoidance system, rear-end crash avoidance, and automotive collision avoidance.
Is FCW Worth the Price?
As a car safety expert, I often get asked if FCW tech is worth the price. That depends.
As one car shopper recently complained, “I wanted the forward collision warning system, but I didn’t want the leather seats! But, of course, they [the manufacturer] bundled them together – I spent more than I wanted to.”
As long as these systems are optional, bundling likely will be the marketing approach of most car companies. And that’s unfortunate. But by 2022, according to a voluntary agreement with the federal government, most manufacturers will have FCW as standard equipment on their cars.
One place you might save is in your insurance premium, after all, you are buying FCW to prevent crashes. But, if there is a crash of any type, then the cameras or sensors on your car may need repair.
These costs can run hundreds or thousands of dollars. As always, insurance is a ‘black box’ – so shop around.
But if you have young drivers at home who love playing with their phones or are prone to other distractions, please get the forward collision warning system in your next car. We will all appreciate it.