On The Road

When it comes to considering cars, safety is always paramount

When I think about the modern car, I tend to think of safety first.

Safety for me does not always mean the best crash-tested car. While that is important, I also want a car that will not let me get in a crash in the first place.

I have driven quite a few cars with lane-departure alerts but have always felt these systems had a long way to go. Lane-departure technology is improving, and I feel in a few years it will be even more impressive.

Active cruise control is another great feature. While driving down the freeway at high speed, the active cruise control slows down the car as it gets closer to traffic and then speeds it up again when the vehicle is clear of traffic. It is like an automatic 2-second rule (safe trailing distance) at all times.

I have not spent a lot of time looking at cars that will brake for you because I feel this technology has not been perfected. However, I do think the slow speed (parking lot) automatic braking is a good thing. Most manufacturers are now implementing these systems, but it will be a few more years until they are commonplace.

Park-distance control and pedestrian monitoring are similar to the lane-departure system. These systems use radar and other sensors to detect if you are going to run into almost anything. A glowing icon on the dashboard and audible beeps that get louder and faster alert the driver before he or she hits something.

I also like backup cameras, though the usefulness of some is limited by screen size. Anyone looking to buy a car that has park-distance control and a backup camera should take the vehicle on a test-drive first to see how well these systems work.

Top safety features

Even with all this amazing computer-controlled technology, the car must also have excellent traction-control and antilock-braking systems for safety purposes. Traction control and antilock brakes have now been in major production for more than 20 years, and the systems in most modern cars are excellent. I think most people do not pay that much attention to these systems because they work so well. For me, these two systems are at the top of the safety list.

Air bags are also extremely important, but they are no longer an option because every new car comes with them.

Lighting is important to me as well. I truly have no idea how we used to drive at night with halogen bulbs. My family owns two BMWs, both of which have high-intensity lights. We also have a 2004 Ford Excursion, which I updated to LED lights three years ago. It was like seeing for the first time.

However, I do not put too much stock in active headlights because they break a lot and are expensive. Effective lights do not need to move around – they just need to be powerful.

So anyone who wants to talk cars with me will quickly learn that I’m not obsessed with horsepower or luxurious interiors. I’m practical, and I consider safety the most important feature on any car.

Matt Pataky owns Sunnyvale Foreign Car Service, 15 Pioneer Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 960-6988, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit sunnyvaleforeigncar.com.

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