Tasteless as it may sound, safety has become the hottest new trend in cars. Automakers are spending ever more dollars each year to research and design cutting-edge, best-in-class safety features. It makes sense, too. Parents shopping for cars rank safety as their top priority, and from Subaru’s camera-based EyeSight system (a $1,250 option) to Tesla’s controversial Autopilot ($2,500), we are enjoying enormously improved driver-safety technology. Of course, manufacturers are enjoying new marketing avenues for their cars, too. Even the most modestly priced examples of advanced driver-assistance options cost several hundred dollars. So what do you do if you’re not shopping for a new car but still want to make sure your current vehicle is as safe as possible? Luckily, there are a few quick and inexpensive options to consider.
A Backup Camera
You may not be able to find a forward-facing camera system like Subaru EyeSight on Amazon, but plenty of backup cameras are available. NHTSA announced that it will require all vehicles manufactured after May 1st, 2018 to come equipped with a rear-view camera, deeming them a critical piece of safety equipment. If you want to install your own, aftermarket kits abound, and most can be installed in a few hours with some DIY know-how. Quality options generally cost a few hundred dollars, although there will always be competitors at the low and high ends of the spectrum.
Camera systems, however, sit at the more technically advanced end of the spectrum. Let’s take a few steps back and figure out how we can make a car safer starting from the ground up. Tires are literally the rubber connecting your car to the ground, and as such, they’re incredibly important in keeping you safe while on the move. Whether it’s regularly checking tire pressure, rotating tires every 6,000-8,000 miles, or replacing them altogether when the tread starts to thin or bubbles begin appearing on sidewalls, a well-maintained set of rubber can make all the difference in the world. For folks living in the north, snow tires should be considered a wintertime necessity. It’s tempting to bargain shop for tires, but this is one area where it makes sense to spend a little extra money.
Another area we tend to forget about. Everyone recognizes the importance of headlights when one (or two) goes out, but until that moment comes, most people are more than happy to live with whatever came pre-installed in their car. If you’re driving an older model, a simple de-hazing restoration kit, such as this one from 3M, can work wonders, improving both your vision at night and the look of your car during all hours. If that’s not enough, consider upgrading your bulbs. Updating your halogen or HID lights isn’t a challenging job, and doing so can help you spot that deer in the road on the darkest of nights.
Their importance is even less obvious than headlights’, but good windshield wipers can make a huge difference—just ask anyone who’s driven through a summer rainstorm with cheap or worn-out wipers. Prices can range wildly on wiper blades, but a good pair is almost always worth the premium. The wipers that come on new vehicles are usually high quality, but a used car is likely to have whatever was left on it by the previous owner, and all wipers need to be replaced eventually. Rain-X blades get plenty of press, and rightfully so, but we’ve found that Bosch wipers work well, too.
The most effective safety measure you can employ is putting experience in the driver’s seat. No matter how many cameras you have on your car, how sticky your tires, how bright your headlights, or how new your wipers, a car being piloted by an inexperienced driver is in danger. I sometimes marvel at how readily we dispense driver’s licenses when, for most families, the infernal contraption in the garage is the most dangerous weapon in the house. Whether you’re a driver with years of experience or someone studying to get their license, defensive driving classes are always a worthwhile investment. And, as an added bonus, most insurance providers will reduce rates for graduates. A safer car, smarter driver, and lower insurance bill? Sounds like a no-brainer.
What have you done to make your car safer?
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