Safety features that could become standard in cars

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Safety used to cost extra when buying a car. Much of the equipment motorists consider standard today, including air bags, anti-lock brakes, back-up lights and even seat belts, came at an added price.

These days, those features and more are often standard. Thanks to technology, safety features in vehicles continue to evolve.

Auto expert from AAA, Jim Prueter, showed us some of the features that are likely to become standard in new vehicles.

With car crashes still the leading cause of injury-related deaths, safety is a top concern not only for the auto manufacturers but for new-car buyers as well. And while today's cars are the safest ever, with better protection in crashes and advanced technology that can help drivers avoid collisions, lowering the risk often comes down to a driver's choices.

"As a safety expert, AAA closely monitors new developments in vehicle safety," said AAA Arizona car expert Jim Prueter. "Advancements in technology have opened doors for new safety features to be designed at a lesser cost to consumers, which means they are becoming more and more common in new cars."

AAA predicts five optional safety features that likely will become standard in the future:

-Rearview back-up cameras
A rear-mounted camera helps reduce blind spots, which can hide other cars and objects. These cameras are included on slightly less than half of all new models sold today, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA).

-Parking sensors
For the same reasons back-up cameras can reduce crashes, parking sensors are valuable safety tools. Whether mounted in front or in the rear, these radar-based sensors detect when the vehicle approaches a hazard and issue a warning beep. Plus, these add-ons are fairly inexpensive.

-Forward collision warning with automatic braking
This technology is coming on strong and uses radar-based technology, like that used by adaptive cruise control. Forward collision warning senses when a vehicle is approaching another vehicle or object at a speed fast enough to crash into it and alerts the driver that a collision might be imminent. More advanced systems will apply the brakes to avoid a crash. Prices for an installed system range widely, from about $300 to several thousand dollars, depending on the vehicle.

-Lane-departure systems
There are two primary types of this increasingly popular system. The first type uses lasers or sensors to monitor lane markings on the roadway and sounds an alarm when a vehicle starts to deviate from its lane. The other type is more proactive: If the driver doesn't respond to an initial warning, the system can take action to keep the vehicle from drifting.

-Blind-spot monitoring systems: Blind-spot monitoring systems use an electronic detection device mounted on the sides of the car, which sends out either electronic electromagnetic waves or takes computer-processed images with a digital camera and analyzes them. When one of these detectors notices another vehicle getting too close, it flashes a light in the driver's peripheral vision and/or makes sounds. In more advanced systems, the car will even try to steer itself back into the safety zone of its previous lane. According to NHTSA, this feature is available on 206 different 2013 vehicle models from 23 manufacturers.

"As more vehicles are equipped with optional safety features, the costs will continue declining and, in many cases, will become standard equipment. And, because safety features reduce crashes and injuries, they also have the effect of reducing your insurance rates," Prueter said. "But, AAA warns motorists to never rely solely on safety features. Nothing can take the place of an alert driver."

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