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New innovations could prevent crashes

February 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
New innovations in car safety could help you avoid accidents. So how do the latest designs work?Technology brings us lots of advances in new cars, especially with safety features that could help avoid a crash. The new Volvo XC60 is the first passenger car to come standard with automatic emergency braking. When you get near an obstruction, the car automatically brakes.

"It basically stops the car for you when it feels an accident is imminent," said Volvo spokeswoman Celesta Davis. "So it's not for everyday driving, it's really for when you're going to hit something and it stops you from doing that."

Volvo calls it the "City Safety" system. It works at speeds up to 19 mph. People who tried it at a demonstration liked it, but had to get used to it.

"[The Volvo representative] said, 'No, trust it," said Carmelita Newton, who tried out the new Volvo. "And then we tried it again and it just stopped. It was great."

"You just don't know when people are going to do that -- pull right in front of you and slam on their breaks," said current Volvo owner Michelle Almira. "I think this is a great selling feature."

So far, it's only available on the upcoming XC60, but Volvo could add the system onto other models as well. The company known for its safety innovations admits that even the safest drivers can sometimes be distracted.

"It's for those moments when you look away, or your baby is crying, or you've dropped a CD and you're not paying attention," said Davis.

Another interesting system comes from BMW on their new high-end 7 series: night vision. It gives you an extra advantage during dark conditions, being able to see people and animals since their body heat shows up on the night vision screen.

Technology brings us the best safety features on the market as time goes on, but safety doesn't have to be high-tech or even very expensive. How about an ingenious new mirror design?

Wide-angle lenses that are now part of the mirrors on some new GM and Ford models. The Chevy Traverse has them, as does the Ford Edge. They'll be available on other models too, and do a great job eliminating blind spots. You can not only see vehicles in the next lane, but the lane next to that.

But whether a safety feature is relatively simple or a little ingenious, experts say they're only there as an enhancement to safe driving habits.


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