Giving Thanks: The Car Features Worth Being Thankful For

November 25th, 2010

With ESC...

My wife and son were in a car accident earlier this week. Thankfully no one was hurt and the car is being taken care of by the friendly folks in car insurance land.

But there’s nothing quite like getting a phone call telling you the people you treasure most have been in an accident, and the relief after learning that they’re perfectly OK. It’s a moment that puts life in perspective and, as much as we love cars, it reminds us that they’re only possessions that can be fixed or replaced.

Being thankful for those we love, and for those who love us, is the real point of the Thanksgiving holiday. But let’s also give some thanks to the features on our cars that keep us all safe and comfortable while on the road.

...without ESC

Electronic Stability Control

Anything that helps a vehicle from spinning out of control or flipping over is welcome. ESC uses sensors to apply the brakes to individual wheels, possibly averting tragedy. It’s so effective, all new cars will be equipped with the technology by 2012.

Heated Seats

As the old saying goes, once you go heated, you’ll never back.

Studless snow tires

I hate studs. There was a time I swore by them, but after seeing the efficient way in which they tear up dry pavement, I’m sold on the studless rubber that is equally, if not more, effective.

The Lady in the Box (GPS navigation)

The Lady in the Box has guided me through Dublin, Dallas, Denver and nearly everywhere in between. Sure, I’ve disappointed her a few times by missing a turn and causing her the trouble of “recalculating,” but she always got me where I needed to go.

Headlight washers

This one might sound trivial and silly, but a snowy, slushy drive over a mountain pass leaves untold masses of grime on headlights, severely reducing visibility. With the push of a button, the headlights are cleared. Before headlight washers, people had to make dangerous road-side stops and try to wipe the headlights clean with used fast food napkins. And that’s no way to spend a holiday!

What car features are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

-tgriffith

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  1. randy
    November 25th, 2010 at 07:03 | #1

    1. Air bags. Air bags save more people than any other safety feature, are completely automatic, and also reduce lesser injuries. I’d rate air bags as the single biggest factor in reducing highway deaths in the past few years.
    2. Computer designed structures. The energy absorbent body structures of modern vehicles goes a very long way in protecting occupants.
    3. ABS and stability systems. This is a mixed bag because theses systems tend to make drivers overconfident and they only have a limited amount of authority. NHTSA noted that ABS systems tend to increase rear-end accidents because drivers mistakenly think and ABS system allows shorter braking distances. In truth, the braking distances stay about the same as panic braking, but ABS allows the driver to retain some steering control. Ditto with stability systems, which can catch some yaw events as long as they don’t happen too fast, but are limited in what they can correct.

    On the negative side, the worst car features are:
    Navigation systems, video screens, video menus and controls, cell phones, complicated vehicle controls, and similar attention grabbers.

    Drivers remain the worst car feature, with impaired driving, distracted driving, speeding, and a woeful ignorance of basic traffic laws and common courtesy being the worst. Here in Michigan, drivers have been so conditioned by police to speed that virtually no one obeys the speed limits, and typical speeds are 10mph over the posted limit. The result is more accidents and traffic deaths. There seems to be some headway on reducing impaired driving but impaired drivers seem to be the most hardcore cases.

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