Study examines which safety features work in cars

July 3, 2012 12:07:19 PM PDT
Before you buy your next car and invest in expensive high-tech features designed to avoid crashes, a new study suggests which ones actually work.

High-tech systems are geared at curbing the number of car crashes. Two technologies have proven the most helpful at avoiding crashes, the first is forward collision avoidance. It's a system that warns you first then automatically brakes if a rear-end crash is imminent. Owners of Mercedes and Acuras with the technology reported a 14-percent drop in insurance claims a year, compared to similar cars without the system.

The second is adaptive headlights which twist automatically toward the direction of a turn - so you can see into dark corners ahead. Volvo and Mazda owners with it had nine and 10 percent lower property-damage claim rates. A third technology did not prove very helpful. A lane departure warning system alerts you if you're drifting out of your lane -- it did not reduce accident claims.

Right now, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has not proposed making these technologies mandatory. It plans to gather more information about cost and reliability. Forward collision avoidance costs around $1,200.

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