Learn All Your Car Can Do

Safety technology in new cars works best when you know how to use it.

Alex Epstein is senior director, digital strategy and content, at the National Safety Council.

​You've probably heard that line about how modern cell phones have more technology in them than the space program did when it was sending missions to the moon. In a similar way, the amount of safety technology in modern automobiles is also pretty astounding.

Today's new cars may come equipped with a host of safety features unheard of just a few years ago – features like back-up cameras, blind spot monitors, forward collision warning systems and lane departure warnings. They use camera – or radar-based sensors, lane marking detectors, wireless transmitters, global positioning and night vision technology. Some features do more than alert drivers – they may actually actively engage to prevent a crash when a driver does not react in time.

As amazing as these tools are, they work much better when you know how to use them. With that in mind, the National Safety Council, working with the University of Iowa, has rolled out MyCarDoesWhat?, a safety campaign to help drivers better understand the new, lifesaving technologies found on many vehicles these days.

A survey by the University of Iowa found most drivers were uncertain about these new technologies and how they worked, with 40 percent of drivers reporting their cars had acted in ways that startled or surprised them. Having this level of uncertainty behind the wheel does not make our roadways safer.

Take the time, please, to look at your dashboard. Are there any icons that you don't recognize? Are there any symbols that have lit up without your knowing why?  If so, please take the time to go to MyCarDoesWhat.org and learn about the technology your car has and how it works.  It is also a great resource for those times when you borrow a car, rent a car or are in the market for a vehicle. Knowledge enables you to be your car's best safety feature.

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