CARS.COM — Technology has brought us some fantastically effective safety features, some so good that the federal government now requires them on passenger vehicles. But there are many features sold as safety options, and some are very good, some are not so good and some are highly questionable. Which ones are worth the extra money? Based on our experience testing countless passenger vehicles — and bolstered, where noted, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — here are our findings.
With the understanding that feature performance can vary from one car to the next, we generally favor options that do something the driver can’t otherwise do and/or that prevent or minimize the direst consequences should the driver fail to act. We come down hardest on features that promote neglect or that can make matters even worse.
Forward Collision Warning With Automated Braking
We believe forward collision warning with automated braking is the top safety option for two reasons: First, we live in the age of distracted driving; the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reports that almost half of two-car crashes from 2012 to 2014 were rear-end collisions. FCW can reduce that. The same could be said for responsible driving, but studies reveal that, half of the time, even alert drivers don’t step hard enough on the brakes during a panic stop.
Cars.com’s experience with these systems has been overwhelmingly positive, with few false alerts. Safety experts are as bullish on this technology as we are. IIHS’ highest honor, the Top Safety Pick Plus, requires a rating of advanced or higher (out of basic, advanced and superior) for a car’s front-crash prevention performance. You may not think you need this feature, but wouldn’t it be great if everyone else had it? The U.S. Department of Transportation seems to agree; it is pressuring automakers to include collision avoidance as standard equipment, and nine manufacturers have vowed to do so.