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Fast Lane: And you thought airbags were enough: Innovations take car safety to new level
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. resulted in 2.9 million injury cases and 42,636 deaths in 2005, the most recent year statistics are available. In addition to the human toll, such accidents cost an estimated $7,300 per second. Thats $230.6 billion a year, or about $820 per person in the U.S.
And yet, when in the market for a new car, many still believe that standard seatbelts and airbags are a cars primary safety features. But today, remarkable strides are being made in automotive innovations, with vehicle technology designed to make driving safer by helping to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
Luxury automaker Lexus has even launched an entire ad campaign about the subject for its 2008 RX 350 SUV, which highlights the benefits of the vehicles active safety systems.
So if youre in the market for a new car, following are a few features to look for to help protect you and your precious cargo:
Handle with care
Every driver knows the feeling of swerving to avoid an accident or skidding to a screeching stop. How well your cars stability control system handles these situations could mean the difference between a safe outcome and an accident. Automakers like Lexus have designed systems such as their Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) to help enhance a vehicles handling, particularly when theres a loss of traction control during a turn.
For example, the VSC in Lexus new RX works in tandem with Traction Control to sense the onset of a loss of traction in a turn and react immediately. Responding to input from sensors that analyze wheel speed and steering angle, it detects when a wheel may be spinning too fast and helps apply the right amount of brake pressure to the specific wheel that needs it, or reduces the throttle if necessary. In effect, it reacts to danger before you can.
To see or not to see
Good visibility is a significant factor in preventing accidents. Its no wonder that the auto industry has been focusing on headlamp innovations. Among the most advanced front lighting systems is Lexus available Adaptive Front Light System (AFS). When negotiating a turn, a drivers eyesight naturally goes in the direction of the turn; but this isnt where the typical headlamp casts its light. The automaker has addressed this issue by offering headlamps that rotate and cast more light in the direction of the turn. The system takes into consideration the cars speed and position of the steering wheel to calculate up to a 15 degree rotation for the left headlamp and up to 5 degrees for the right headlamp in the direction it is turning.
Rain, rain go away
The minute those rain drops pelt your windshield, know that your visibility will be immediately affected. An often underappreciated feature on any car, a good windshield wiper system can help ensure a safe trip during bad weather. Today, blades are made to last longer and do a better job cleaning your windshield, vastly improving visibility. So when buying a new car, try out the wiper blades, and make sure they function properly and work at various speeds.
Lexus has taken wiper blades one step further by developing an available rain-sensing system that detects and automatically responds when water drops accumulate on the windshield. On the RX 350, for example, a rain sensor located behind the rearview mirror detects the presence of rain on the windshield. When it senses moisture, the sensor activates the wiper blades at the appropriate speed. When the rain intensifies or diminishes, the sensor adjusts the wiper speed accordingly.
The pressure's on
According to a poll conducted by AAA, 85 percent of motorists do not know how to check their vehicles tire pressure. But the amount of tire pressure can greatly affect how your car grips the road. So over- or under-inflated tires can impact vehicle performance in acceleration, handling and braking, all the things that need to be at their peak to help avoid accidents. Make sure the car youre looking for comes with a tire pressure system that is proactive. Sensors in each tire should constantly monitor the air pressure and transmit the information to the onboard systems computer and alert the driver when pressure is critically low.
For more information about new car safety features and Lexus safety systems, visit www.ActivelySafe.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
from the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue