Looking at used cars? See our safety features checklist.

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We all love classic and vintage cars. That said, many of them are a little lacking when it comes to basic car safety features. Even seat belts. (Yep, once upon a time, seat belts were strangely missing in most all modes of transport.) So, as you ponder your next purchase—vintage or not—we’ve compiled a list of safety features that you should keep in mind.

Car air bags

Front car air bags have been standard since 1998 and most cars had them before that year. Sensors connected to an onboard computer detect a frontal collision and trigger the bags. Adaptive, or dual-stage, front car air bags started appearing in 2003 and were standard across the board by the 2007 model year. Side air bags (side curtains) are usually available on more luxurious models.

Anti-lock brake systems

Anti-lock brake systems pulse the brakes on and off when the brake pedal is hit hard. This system lets the driver retain steering control while braking.

Safety belt features

Seat belts are the most important safety feature. Adjustable upper anchors and seatbelt pretensioners make safety belt features work even better.

Traction control systems

Traction control systems limit tire spin when starting off in wet or icy conditions. Most traction control systems use the car’s anti-lock brake systems. Some traction control systems work only at low speeds while others work all the time.

Electronic stability control

Taking the traction control a step further, electronic stability control allows the car to avoid sliding or skidding during a turn by using series of computer sensors to detect wheel speed, steering angle, sideways motion and yaw (spin) by limiting engine power to one of more wheels, to pull the car back on course. Electronic stability control became standard equipment on all cars starting in 2012.

Lane departure warning system

The lane departure warning system reminds the driver if his car drives from its lane without using the turn signals. High tech versions of this system can even intervene by using the car’s electronic stability control to prevent you from sideswiping another car.

Adaptive cruise control

The adaptive cruise control system maintains a constant distance between your car and the car in front. Lasers or radar are used to do this.

Car blind-spot warning

The car blind-spot warning system uses radar or cameras to warn that another car is in the lane beside your car, usually hidden by your car’s blind spot.

Backup cameras

Mostly used as a parking aid, backup cameras can help you spot a child or a pedestrian hidden in the blind spot right behind your car.

Upcoming car safety features

Besides these systems, certain car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Cadillac are working on car safety systems that will enable you to drive your car both in semi-autonomous and fully automated modes. Obviously, a lot of work is still needed.

Mercedes is also testing for unintentional airbag deployments when driving over curbs, and detection of high-speed merging traffic or sudden braking.

Another key advance is the 2013 BMW i3, which will be equipped with a new traffic jam assistant system that will steer, accelerate and brake the city car up to 25 mph in congestion.


Editor’s note: As you gear up for your new ride, shop Advance Auto Parts for the best in roadside safety accessories and more.

The latest on Vehicle Safety Features

Seat belts, airbags, and anti-lock brakes have long been protecting us from injury during car accidents. Now, advances in technology have enabled car manufacturers to develop the next generation in car safety, and the systems are chock full of clever features. Read on for a few exciting new developments.

Advanced Technology Is Already Here

Pre-collision braking systems are at the forefront of car safety enhancements. When equipped with one, a car can sense and reduce the severity of impact by tightening seat belts, audibly notifying the driver of the danger, and automatically applying the brakes. Many luxury brands already offer this technology, and companies like Honda will install the system across their full lineup in the next few years.

Lane-drift warning and prevention is another clever car safety feature available on many new cars today. Using complex laser technology, plus brakes and steering input when necessary, this feature can recognize when a car’s drifting across traffic lines and actively bring it back into the lane of traffic.

The blind spot warning system has quickly made its way into most new cars. It will intuitively flash a light in your side mirror when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot and alert you if you put on your signal indicator. One new feature that’s still fairly exclusive is the drowsiness warning system. As you drive, the system maps your steering, throttle, and brake inputs to establish a “regular” driving pattern. If you start driving drowsily according to the pre-determined mapping, the clever feature will encourage you to pull over and take a break.

The Very Near Future

Some manufacturers already offer wifi connectivity in their new cars, but soon it won’t be restricted to internet browsing; car companies like Ford are looking to use the technology to connect cars with one another to reduce collisions. By employing a system that allows cars to “talk” to one another, drivers are alerted if a vehicle is out of control or on a direct collision path. There’s even a program in the works that will enable traffic lights to talk to cars as well, warning them of a potentially dangerous situation ahead.

Airbags and seat belts were just the first in a long line of car safety features. The latest new technologies hint at even more advanced protective measures to come. We’ll keep you posted on those.

The DriverSide Team

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection roadside safety kits, backup cameras, car alarm accessories and other quality auto parts to keep you safe and secure. Get more car ownership tips from our partners at DriverSide.