A growing array of advanced safety technology is now available as either standard or optional equipment on most new cars, trucks and SUVs. To help you make decisions about which features are most important to you, Edmunds has developed this list of some of the most widely available "active" safety features, along with key information about each one. Active safety features are meant to keep you from getting into an accident, versus "passive" safety equipment, such as seat belts and airbags, which protect you if you're in an accident. We hope this list will make choosing active safety features easier when you're shopping for a new vehicle.
Our list is based on an assessment of research and recommendations from such sources as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Safety Council (NSC) and its MyCarDoesWhat.com website.
The first three items — forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive headlights and rearview cameras — generally received the most positive comments or ratings. But some research studies found the other features on the list to be worthwhile, and one or more may be just what you need, depending on your driving environment, driving style and personal preferences.
What you won't find here is safety equipment that is currently government-mandated as standard equipment for passenger cars and light trucks, such as seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.
Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking
This technology is also called automatic emergency braking or forward collision mitigation. These systems have sensors that detect vehicles or objects in front of you and send a signal to a computer that evaluates the closure rate. If the system decides there's danger of a collision, it triggers a visual or audible signal or both. But if you don't respond quickly enough, it automatically applies the brakes to avoid or lessen the severity of a crash.
Now widely available as standard or optional equipment on many car models, these systems have received generally positive ratings in government and industry evaluations. IIHS research shows that vehicles equipped with this technology are clearly less likely to rear-end other vehicles. And the Highway Loss Data Institute has found that such systems, along with adaptive headlights, show the biggest crash reductions of any automated safety features.
You should be aware, however, that testing by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that automatic braking systems "vary widely in design and performance." In tests, those designed to prevent collisions reduced vehicle speed by 79 percent, while those intended just to lessen crash severity only reduced speed by 40 percent. So take that into consideration if this feature is important to you.
Forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking is standard or available on such models as the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu , 2017 Chrysler 200 , 2017 Mazda CX-3 , 2017 Subaru Forester and 2017 Volvo S60 .
Adaptive headlights, sometimes called intelligent light systems or active headlights, pivot with the steering wheel to illuminate the road in the direction your car is heading. The system uses sensors to detect steering angle and sends a signal to a computer within the system, which in turn processes the information and tells small electric motors to swivel the headlights the appropriate amount.
In addition, some adaptive headlight systems provide improved illumination when you drive up hills. Unlike regular headlights, which point at the sky on sharp inclines, these lights pivot downward to stay aimed at the roadway. Many such systems come packaged with an auto-dimming feature that switches to low beams when the system detects oncoming traffic.
Adaptive headlights have received very positive ratings in government and industry evaluations. Although the technology is relatively new, IIHS data shows that vehicles equipped with adaptive headlights are involved in fewer crashes than those without them. IIHS also notes that these systems might soon be necessary for a vehicle to receive its Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Adaptive headlights are standard or optional on such models as the 2017 Audi A3 , 2017 Honda Accord , 2017 Hyundai Tucson , 2017 Lexus NX , 2017 Mazda 3 and the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta .
Rearview cameras, also known as backup cameras, use a lens mounted at the rear of a vehicle to project an image onto a dashboard screen to help you see behind your car. Some rearview camera systems provide a color image, some are monochrome (black and white) and some even have night-vision capability. Many display parallel lines over the image to indicate the vehicle's width and most include a warning tone that sounds when you get too close to an object.
Experimentation with rearview cameras has been going on for decades, with one such system mounted on the 1956 Buick Centurion concept car. The first production car in the U.S. with an optional backup camera was the 2002 Infiniti Q45. Today, rearview cameras are either standard or optional equipment on more than 70 percent of new vehicles, according to NHTSA.
Data from IIHS shows that back-up incidents cause approximately 290 fatalities and 18,000 injuries each year, many involving infants or children. The National Safety Council notes that rearview cameras have been shown to be more effective than sensor-based systems that beep when an object is detected. As a result of various studies and other data, NHTSA has mandated that rearview cameras be standard equipment on all light vehicles manufactured on or after May 1, 2018.
Rearview camera systems are standard or optional on current models that include the 2017 Honda Civic , 2017 Mazda CX-3 , 2017 Nissan Murano , 2017 Subaru Impreza , 2017 Toyota Camry and 2017 Volkswagen Passat .
Automatic Crash Notification
This technology uses sensors to detect when your vehicle has crashed and automatically contacts an emergency operator who can then speak to the occupants. One major advantage of the system is that it works even without driver or passenger input, providing the operator with location and other information that can be passed along to emergency responders.
If you are severely injured, care at a Level 1 trauma center lowers the risk of death by 25 percent, according to NHTSA, and notification time is critical to this process. NHTSA data shows that notifying emergency responders within 1 to 2 minutes of a crash "would significantly improve survival rates compared with later notifications" of even 3 to 15 minutes.
Automatic crash notification requires either a smartphone link or in-vehicle wireless connectivity and often comes as part of a larger telematics package. It's standard or optional on such models as the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu , 2017 Subaru Forester and 2017 Volvo S60 .
Also called blind-spot monitors, these systems sound a warning or flash a light in the sideview mirror or on the "A" pillar when another vehicle enters your car's side blind spots. Some also use haptic feedback — vibration, usually through the steering wheel or seat &mdash to let you know there's danger in an adjacent lane.
Almost 840,000 blind-spot crashes occur each year resulting in about 300 fatalities, NHTSA estimates. This technology has been shown to increase driver awareness considerably. But you should be aware that it has its limitations. Research from AAA shows that some systems aren't very good at detecting motorcycles or vehicles that are moving very fast. And since many systems are optimized for standard highway speeds, they can also miss slower moving dangers, such as pedestrians or bicyclists. In addition, some are so sensitive that drivers often find the false alerts to be annoying and they turn off the systems, which defeats their purpose.
Models that include blind-spot warning systems as standard or optional equipment include the 2017 Acura RLX , 2017 Lexus ES 350 and the 2017 Lincoln MKX .
Lane Departure Warning
If you begin to drift out of your traffic lane, a lane departure warning system will sound an alarm or trigger haptic feedback to get your attention. Lane departure warnings work through sensors that "read" lane and side-of-road lines, so it's important to keep the sensors clean and be aware that these systems may not work if road markings are obscured by snow, leaves or fog.
According to AAA, lane departure warning systems have been shown to improve lane-keeping by up to 34 percent, and NHTSA includes them in its list of potential significant advances in vehicle safety. But, as the National Safety Council points out, lane departure warnings only work if drivers heed them. And unfortunately, IIHS data reveals that vehicle owners find overly sensitive LDW systems "more annoying than other crash avoidance technologies" and tend to turn the systems off.
Lane departure warning is now standard or optional on a large number of current models, including the 2017 BMW X1 , 2017 Hyundai Sonata and the 2017 Nissan Altima .
Lane Keeping Assist
Closely related to lane departure warning is lane keeping assist, which takes the technology one step further by gently steering the vehicle back into your lane if you don't do it yourself after the initial warning. In most models, the system is defeated when a turn signal is activated and will disengage if you nudge the steering wheel even slightly.
Many of the issues that apply to lane departure warning also hold true for lane keeping assist. It can prevent many of the same types of vehicle collisions, including running off the road, but is only effective when the sensors are able to "see" road markings. Depending on the sensitivity of its sensors, a lane keeping assist system may return many false positives, especially on country roads with many tight turns. As a result, research indicates that some drivers also tend to turn off these systems.
Current models on which lane keeping assist is standard or optional include the 2017 Audi A6 , 2017 Honda Accord and 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class .
Also called pedestrian detection, these systems are optimized to detect a pedestrian in your path and sound an alert when you're driving below a certain speed, usually around 20 or 25 miles per hour. Some are also designed to detect bicycles and other objects as well, and some will even apply the brakes for you if you don't respond to the initial warning.
Although those pedestrian alert systems with automatic braking may not always be able to avoid a crash, they are usually able to reduce impact speed significantly, thus reducing injury or damage. And at low speeds they may help avoid a collision completely. If you live in an urban area with a lot of foot traffic, pedestrian alert with or without automatic braking, may be a useful choice.
Some models that offer pedestrian alert as either standard or optional equipment include the 2017 Acura MDX , 2017 Nissan Maxima and 2017 Subaru Legacy .
Rear cross-traffic alert
These systems sound a warning if a car, pedestrian or bicycle is entering your path as you back up. Although this technology is not part of the NHTSA mandate for rearview cameras, it's likely to become more available from many automakers as backup-camera legislation takes effect, since it complements the camera systems.
AAA research indicates that while rear cross-traffic alert sensors do a good job of recognizing objects directly behind a vehicle when it's backing straight out of a driveway or parking space, they're less effective if your car is parked between two larger vehicles. And the National Safety Council notes that they also don't work as well if you're backing out of an angled space.
Current models that feature rear cross-traffic alert as standard or optional equipment include the 2017 Acura ILX , 2017 Mazda 6 and the 2017 Volvo XC90 .
No tickets to buy. No TSA lines. No runway delays or stale pretzels. When you want to travel with freedom and flexibility, nothing beats a road trip. Whether you're going for a day, a weekend or a two-week cross-country trek, here's a checklist that will help you make the most of your journey.
1. Pick the car. It's probably one of the two you have in your garage, but if you happen to be car shopping, keep road trips in mind as you're making your selection. For family travel , size up the car's storage space, the cupholder count (16 in the redesigned Honda Pilot ). Be aware of range (for both gasoline-powered and electric cars). Some vehicles, such as the Ford Flex and Honda Odyssey , offer built-in cool boxes that will keep a few bottles or cans cold during your trip.
If your road trippers are going to be family — and maybe even the grandparents — think big, using our minivan or SUV buying guide. If you are two-for-the-road types, test-drive coupes , convertibles or, for a change of pace and room for hauling sports gear, check out a wagon .
2. Do a safety check. No one wants to deal with a breakdown, particularly if your road trip includes little kids. Be sure your tires (including the spare, if you have one ) are properly inflated and in good shape, and that everything from the windshield wipers to the air-conditioning system, is in working order.
3. Settle the shotgun question. If it's adults or teens who want the coveted seat, a quick rock-paper-scissors is all you need. But remember that children under 13 should ride in the backseat, properly belted in . Airbags can be fatal for young children riding in the front seat. And never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. If your kids tend to squabble and you're traveling in a vehicle that will permit it, put the kids in separate rows. It's your vacation, too.
4. Map your route. Use your car's built-in navigation, Google, Apple, MapQuest or Waze — it doesn't really matter. Pick your favorite and plot your course. Try the "avoid highways" option to find more interesting routes. Check attractions or points of interest to discover side trips. Or go old school and get some paper maps. Then pick the roads less traveled.
5. Make your playlist. Whatever the vintage of your car, you have the means to play music that will make the miles fly by. Make a cassette mix tape, burn some CDs, or load up your smartphone with road trip music and summer classic songs. If you're short of time or uninspired, check out the road trip playlists on Spotify or other music sites.
It's good playlist etiquette to take other travelers' requests for the mix. And if there are kids aboard, make sure they have players and headphones for private listening. Unless, of course, Kidz Bop Greatest Hits is your idea of a good time.
6. Get your games on. The road trip games that you probably played as a kid are still low-tech fun, particularly for kids who may be getting tired of watching the scenery skim by. Check out our list of some popular no-charging-required games .
7. Plan fun stops. Everyone needs a bio break and a stretch, but highway rest stops can be boring and crowded, especially on holiday weekends. Instead, use your nav system to track down local parks or offbeat points of interest that have restrooms. Roadside America has an app with regional information on hundreds of weird places you'd never find on your own. Haven't you always wanted to see California's Cabazon Dinosaurs or Georgia's Old Car City USA ?
8. Pack snacks. If you don't want to hit up the fast-food outlets along your route, pack some snacks and drinks. The adult travelers can have whatever suits them, from brie and fizzy water to Mountain Dew and Pringles. For kids, though, consider limiting the sugar in their snacks — you don't want them to have too much energy. Think rice cakes, Cheerios, raisins and little crackers.
9. Arrive revived. It's a drag to get to your destination when it's late and you're cranky. It's even worse to find yourself falling asleep at the wheel. Get a good night's sleep before you set out. Plan on driving no more than 10 hours per day: That's the limit under federal law for professional drivers who carry passengers. Drivers can trade off to reduce the stress of long hours behind the wheel. If you have little kids in the backseat, your driving day may need to be shorter — for everyone's sanity.
When you get where you're going, whether it's your final destination or just your stop for the night, take a few minutes to appreciate the freedom of the summer road trip. There's nothing else like it.
The holiday shopping season can be fun and fulfilling, but it is also a time when cars become treasure troves for thieves.
Here are a few car safety tips to help you get through the holiday season with all your gifts — and sanity — intact.
Lock Shopping Bags in the Trunk
You know this one: Items left in plain view are more likely to get stolen . If your vehicle has a trunk, make sure that's where you put the shopping bags.
Use a Cargo Cover
Many crossovers , SUVs , hatchbacks and wagons have exposed cargo areas. The fix, of course, is a cargo cover. If you don't have one or have lost it, order one from the dealership. If you do have one, make sure you use it — always.
Drop Off Gifts at Home
If you've purchased a big-ticket item or have completed a big shopping trip and need to go somewhere else, make a detour home to drop off your purchases. A few minutes of your time could save you a ton of money and lots of holiday disappointment.
Use Compartments That Keep Things Out of Sight
Many more modern cars have excellent storage compartments. It is not uncommon to find vehicles with two gloveboxes , an extra storage bin in the dash and a large center console. Some crossovers have a hidden storage area underneath the cargo floor.
Park Far Away From the Store Entrance
Parking far from the store or mall entrance has a number of benefits. First, you won't have to stress out or fight someone for a parking spot. Second, you will minimize the chances of your car getting dinged from a stray shopping cart or carelessly opened door. If you're shopping at night, make sure you're in a well-lit location. Be aware of your surroundings when approaching the car.
Use Remote Driver Door Unlock
Most car key remotes have a two-stage unlocking process. The first press unlocks the driver's door only, while the second press unlocks the rest. Make sure to use this function if you are traveling alone to minimize the chances of someone jumping in the passenger side.
Use Valet Keys and Valet Mode
If you don't already carry a valet key with you, this is the season to start. Whether you're valet parking at a mall for convenience or having dinner after shopping, this key will keep a prying valet or larcenous passerby from accessing the trunk of the car. If you want to keep your infotainment data private, a number of newer models from Ford and GM offer a valet mode for their systems. Valet mode locks the screen until a PIN code is entered. Read our article on car technology and privacy for more tips.
Use Back-Up Cameras and Mirrors When Parking
Holiday parking lots are a nightmare. Having a back-up camera can help you spot a child who might be in your blind spot. It's also handy for avoiding stray shopping carts. Don't make the mistake of only using the camera, however. Keep using your mirrors, and use the backup camera to get a full picture of what is around your car.
Don't Rely Only on Rear Cross-Traffic Alert Systems Rear cross-traffic alert systems signal when traffic is passing behind you, and can be handy in a busy holiday parking lot. But if your car has this technology, don't make the mistake of relying solely on it. Testing by AAA indicates that when a car is parked between larger vehicles, such as SUVs or minivans, the rear cross-traffic systems are not as effective. In AAA testing, they failed to detect passing vehicles 30 percent of the time. The score for motorcycle detection was worse: The systems missed them 48 percent of the time. Also, rear cross-traffic alert systems don't typically work in angled parking spaces. They only work if your car is parked straight in a spot, according to the National Safety Council. As with backup cameras, it's best to use the system as a backup for mirrors and looking behind you as you exit a parking space.
Back Into Parking Spaces So You Can Pull Out Safely Later
It's not how most of us do it, but you will make a safer exit if you back into a parking space, rather than heading into it. "Pulling out of a parking spot, instead of reversing, is an easy way to increase safety and visibility in busy parking lots this holiday season," says John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of automotive engineering and repair. Just make sure the parking lot isn't too hectic so that you'll have room to back in. If you need a refresher, AAA has tips on how to reverse into a parking space .
Use Hands-Free Devices To Avoid Distracted Driving
The holiday season means driving in foul weather, putting up with kids shouting about what they want you to buy them and relatives texting you to pick up some last-minute gift. You can't do much about weather, kids and bossy relatives, but you can minimize handling the phone .
Make sure your phone is synced via Bluetooth to take calls. If your car doesn't have Bluetooth, there are a number of aftermarket solutions . If you really need to reply to a text , pull over. Or, the next time you're car shopping, consider a vehicle that has a text-to-speech feature , which can read messages to the driver and understands the replies. Other systems let the driver scroll through several preset response messages.
Better yet, put the phone in the glovebox or trunk. Enjoy the peace and quiet. You'll need it before you hit the mall.
WASHINGTON — The 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck earned the highest five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .
The rating applies to 2016 F-150 Regular Cab and SuperCrew models in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.
On sale now at Ford dealerships , the 2016 F-150 received five stars in the front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover crash test.
The 2016 F-250 SuperCab has not been rated.
Standard safety features on the 2016 F-150 include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, trailer sway control, front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
Optional F-150 safety equipment includes curve control, adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot information system.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not rated the 2016 F-150.
Key competitors to the F-150 include the Chevrolet Silverado , Nissan Titan , Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra .
Edmunds says: Safety-minded truck shoppers should note that the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado also earned the highest five-star safety rating from NHTSA. The 2016 Nissan Titan has not been rated. The 2016 Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra earned a four-star overall safety rating.
Carrie Aulenbacher was about 10 minutes away from work one winter afternoon when her plans changed radically.
"A tractor-trailer jackknifed in front of me," she recalls. Just like that, she and several other motorists were immobilized on I-90 in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Thankfully, conditions were in her favor. She'd recently had lunch and had a blanket in the car, so she remained relatively comfortable for what became a six-hour wait. "Basically, I sat and read while I waited for troopers and emergency personnel to clean the mess," she says.
But the experience left Aulenbacher with a new appreciation for being prepared. Among the essentials she now keeps in her car are an emergency kit with an extra set of clothes and socks, granola bars, water and a blanket. She keeps her cell phone charged. She also keeps a bag of salt in the trunk, useful for melting ice, which improves traction.
In winter, road conditions and weather can alter your route at a moment's notice. Ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers by preparing now.
Before You Go
Use weather apps and social media to stay up to date on weather conditions throughout the day, especially before you hit the road. For a longer trip, let someone know where you are going, your anticipated route and your arrival time.
A quick trip in pleasant weather can take significantly longer in winter. Keep your gas tank at least half full. This ensures you'll get where you're going, and should you become stranded, you'll be able to run the engine longer.
First, take inventory of your car's year-round safety gear. Make sure you have a set of jumper cables, a phone charger and a flashlight in your car. Consider including something like the LifeHammer , too, in case the unthinkable happens and you get trapped inside the vehicle. Also, don't forget to make sure that your spare tire is properly inflated, if your car is equipped with one .
10 Best AWD Sedans Under $35,000 With an all-wheel drive sedan, you might never find yourself stuck in snow. These 10 cars are our picks for difficult winter driving.
Come winter, you'll want to add more items. As Carrie Aulenbacher discovered, a warm blanket can make a big difference, as can packaged nuts or energy bars for emergency sustenance. When it's really cold, hand warmers provide quick relief. A shovel gives you a fighting chance of digging yourself out of a snowdrift, while a bag of sand or kitty litter can be poured in the path of your wheels to aid traction. Signal flares maximize visibility if you're stuck on the side of the road; likewise, a brightly colored scarf or bandana can be affixed to a disabled vehicle to indicate that something's amiss. If you're looking for a one-step solution, check out ready-made kits that include an emergency sign and other basics. You can spend as little as $12 or as much as $130 , depending on your comfort level.
Store moisture-sensitive items, such as signal flares and matches, inside the cabin, where they're protected from the weather. "Most people opt for under the seats," says Cliff Hodges, founder of Adventure Out LLC .
Fend Off the Chill
Keeping warm in a car can be a challenge. It may be tempting to keep the heat running, but it's best not to deplete your gas tank all at once. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) recommends running a car for only about 10 minutes each hour.
Always get out first to clear the snow around your exhaust pipe, and check that it isn't clogged with snow or ice. This important step will ensure that carbon monoxide does not seep into the car, resulting in illness or death.
Watch for signs of frostbite on yourself or young children. "Frostbite starts off as redness of the skin of the fingers, toes, and face. You'll notice sensations such as numbness or pins and needles," says Joe Alton , M.D., co-author of The Survival Medicine Handbook . Next, he says, the skin will turn white and waxy, and later on, blue or even black.
At the first indications of frostbite, take steps to warm the area. Place your hands inside your armpits and blow warm air onto them, suggests Alston.
Creativity can make the difference between cold and comfortable, so see what's around you. Grocery bags, floor mats or school papers can be wrapped around the body to trap heat, or stuffed into clothing as insulation.
Don't hesitate to "re-purpose" parts of your car if they can be used for keeping warm in a prolonged emergency. "Cars are full of insulation," says Hodges. "I've run an urban survival course where we stripped out the insulation and padding from the car seats and stuffed our clothes with it: in effect, making our own wardrobe into a warm sleeping bag."
As you wait, take advantage of body heat by snuggling up with passengers or pets. Tuck blankets or extra items around yourselves.
Don't get out and walk a significant distance for help, even if you're stranded in a familiar area. "It is best to stay in one place in a survival situation, especially in the winter when exposure is a present threat," says Hodges. Staying put conserves your energy, keeps you sheltered and makes it easier for rescuers to find you, he says.
Even if your cell phone shows "no service," attempt a 911 call . According to FCC rules, all service providers are required to pick up and transmit a 911 call. Also, try sending a text, which will sometimes go through in areas of spotty coverage.
Before calling for help, identify a landmark, street or exit you recently passed. According to a USA Today investigation , the ability of 911 to identify your location varies from a low of 10 percent to a high of 95 percent.
Don't turn off your phone to conserve battery power. Instead, turn the device's lighting down to the lowest level, and turn off any apps that are running. Turn off all unnecessary notifications and be sure the phone is on ring, not vibrate. Also, disable Bluetooth and Wifi.
Know the features of the vehicle you're driving. Some are equipped to automatically transmit your vehicle's location to a call center via services such as General Motors' OnStar , Ford's Sync 911 Assist or BMW Assist . Some systems have a voice link, enabling you to converse with authorities.
Food and Water
If it looks as if you'll be stranded for a long time, nourishment becomes an issue.
Take stock of available food, and make a plan for rationing it. The body can survive several days without food, but water is the priority. You can avoid dehydration by taking advantage of snow, but use caution.
"Snow is mostly air, so you get less water than you'd think," says Alton. Also be on the lookout for contaminants: Only consume white, freshly fallen snow.
Remember, too, that the temperature of snow will have a cooling effect on your body, which is already chilled. Eat small amounts, spread over time.
"The smaller your body, the more effect the cold will have," Alton says. Children will become hypothermic faster than adults if they eat too much snow.
In today's hyper-connected age, the idea of becoming stranded may seem unthinkable. But unexpected circumstances do arise, so your best defense is preparation and knowledge.
Jonathan Adkins used to catch up on personal phone calls as he walked home from his job in Washington, D.C., where he is executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association ( GHSA ), an organization representing state highway safety agencies.
Once he became aware of how distracted he could become as he got engrossed in a conversation, however, he gave it up. "My walk is much more pleasant," he says. It also became safer.
Pedestrian safety has become a major national concern recently. Injuries and fatalities are on the rise again in the U.S. In 2013, 4,735 pedestrians were killed, a 15 percent increase since 2009. The trend continued in the first half of 2014, the most recent time for which data is available.
Put another way, the numbers are even more sobering: A pedestrian is killed every two hours in the U.S. and one is injured every eight minutes, according to GHSA.
While the injuries and fatalities affect all ages and both genders, the average age of a pedestrian killed in traffic crashes in 2013 was 46, according to the GHSA. Males accounted for 70 percent of the fatalities.
Agencies such as GHSA and others are stepping up safety and education efforts. In August 2015, the GHSA issued a comprehensive report, outlining 21 steps states can take to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries. The report, funded by a grant from State Farm , also includes steps for drivers and pedestrians.
"This report is not about taking sides," pitting pedestrians against drivers, says traffic safety expert Pam Fischer, who wrote the report, " Everyone Walks: Understanding & Addressing Pedestrian Safety ." The aim, she and other experts say, is to boost awareness for both drivers and pedestrians so they can focus on the things both do that cause the injuries and deaths.
"It's not a blame game," Adkins agrees. "We all have to share the road. We want to do things to minimize risks." And at some point in our daily lives, she says "we're all pedestrians."
What States Are Doing
States have a variety of policy initiatives, such as moves to reduce speeds on streets and set up slow zones in neighborhoods, Fischer says. Ten states now have ''vulnerable user'' laws, which increase fines and penalties for drivers who injure or kill a pedestrian, she says. States such as Minnesota , and cities including New York , have educational campaigns designed to catch both motorists' and pedestrians' eyes.
While policy makers focus on programs, education and laws, drivers and pedestrians can take action by first learning what causes most pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and then changing their behaviors, safety experts say.
Dangers for Drivers
For drivers, the top causes of accidents with pedestrians are alcohol, speed and distraction, Fischer says. The advice for drivers isn't new, but it bears repeating.
Don't drink and drive: Drinking drivers are a major cause of pedestrian accidents. According to current National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA ) statistics, 15 percent of the motorists who fatally struck pedestrians had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
Obey speed limits: As vehicle speed increases, not surprisingly, so does the risk of pedestrian injury. At an impact speed of 17 mph, the average risk of a pedestrian injury is about 10 percent. At 48 mph, that risk rises to 90 percent.
Pay attention to the road: Drivers aren't just distracted by their cell phones. According to NHTSA, 76 percent of all distraction-affected crashes occurring in 2013 arose from other sources of in-car distraction. These included talking to passengers, putting on makeup, daydreaming or reaching for something in the car while the vehicle was moving.
Dangers for Pedestrians
Two factors stand out in explaining pedestrian injuries and deaths: alcohol and distraction. But those are not the only perils. Here is some advice for pedestrians:
Don't drink and walk: When someone is intoxicated, a decision to walk home instead of driving there might sound smart. But it also can be risky . In 2013, 36 percent of the pedestrians 16 years of age and older who were involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or higher, which is the legal level of intoxication in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That toll has remained unchanged since 2004, according to calculations by NHTSA and the Automobile Club of Missouri.
That unchanged statistic suggests pedestrians are not aware enough of risks, Adkins says. "And even though we are making progress at reducing drunk driving, we are not seeing progress in reducing the number of fatally injured pedestrians," he says. The message that walking drunk can be as dangerous as driving drunk needs to be heard, he says. If you've had too much to drink, consider a taxi or ride share rather than a stumbling walk home.
Take off your headphones and look up from your cell phone: Distracted walking needs as much attention as distracted driving. In 2004, less than 1 percent of pedestrians were killed while they were using a cell phone. By 2010, it was 3.6 percent, according to Ohio State University researchers. Most people think they can multitask, but a Pew Research study suggests not. It found that 53 percent of adult cell phone users who were talking on a cell phone while they were in motion were either bumped into or bumped into someone or something.
Your walking pace gets slower when you talk on the phone or text, other research suggests. With your eyes on the text screen, you naturally become less aware of traffic.
An overwhelming number of pedestrians are ignoring their surroundings as they walk. Researchers from the University of Georgia observed pedestrians at 20 high-risk intersections and found that 33 percent were talking to other people, 26 percent were wearing headphones, 15 percent were texting and 13 percent were on their cell phones. And 6 percent were distracted in multiple ways, such as listening to music as they also texted. At a minimum, safety experts suggest, take off your headphones and disengage from your cell phone when you're crossing streets.
Exit a disabled car on the passenger side: Among the riskiest scenarios is when a driver gets out of a car on a roadway, thus becoming a vulnerable pedestrian, Adkins says. This typically happens when a motorist's car breaks down and he pulls to the right, but then gets out of the vehicle on the driver side. It's a formula for disaster, Adkins warns.
If you have to get out of a disabled car, Adkins says, it's best to exit on the passenger side. Even better, pull onto a less busy street or into a parking lot to get clear of traffic, he says.
Country roads can be perilous: While busy city streets often are the scene of driver-pedestrian mishaps, rural roads also can be dangerous, especially those with no sidewalks, Adkins says. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic, safety experts say.
Poor lighting and low visibility: Lack of lighting and visibility also play major roles in accidents, says Charlie Zegeer, director of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.
A typical comment from a motorist who collides with a pedestrian at night, he says, is that ''He came out of nowhere." Nighttime visibility is important, and walkers can increase it by wearing light-colored or reflective clothing. Beyond using their headlights appropriately, drivers can't do anything about poorly lit roadways. But by reducing their speed, they can lower the risk of a collision, research shows.
The dangers of distracted driving affect thousands of lives each year. Are you taking the proper steps to ensure a safe driving experience for you, your passengers and others on the road?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA ), the numbers are all too real, with 3,154 people killed in 2013 in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers . While many states have adopted laws to crack down on phone usage behind the wheel, real change starts at home, with drivers pledging to adopt simple safety measures and ensuring family members also make the commitment.
As advocates for safe driving everywhere, the car experts at Edmunds.com offer these tips for safe travels behind the wheel:
Limit the distractions: While it's always a good idea to have a phone with you in case of a breakdown or other auto emergency, keep distractions out of sight while driving. Switch your phone to silent, put it in airplane mode or turn it off completely before you enter your vehicle. Placing your phone in the glovebox, the backseat or the trunk (or even just in a bag) can also stop the temptation of answering your calls or texts, so you can focus on the road instead.
Just drive: Many other activities can also be distracting in the car, such as eating, drinking, managing your entertainment or even putting on makeup. Make sure your car is used only for getting you from Point A to Point B. Save the other activities for your destination.
Make it a family priority: Discuss the responsibilities that come with driving a vehicle and the hazards that accompany distracted driving. Set rules for your whole family so teen drivers know that you, too, are engaged in creating a safe zone in your own vehicle. Be a good role model even before your children are old enough to drive so they witness only good habits.
Set a reminder for safety: Place a sticky note on your phone or a photo of a loved one in a non-obstructive location in your car to remind you of your commitment to safe driving. Owners of the Apple Watch can download Edmunds.com's free app, DrivePromise by Edmunds , which is free and allows users to upload a photo of a loved one. The app will then detect if the wearer is in a moving vehicle and bring up the photo as a psychological reminder to drive safely.
Don't be a passive passenger: Spreading the message about safe driving doesn't stop when you're in the passenger seat. If you're in a car with driver who is using a phone, ask that it be put away — for everyone's safety.
Become an advocate for safe driving. Tell your family, friends, neighbors and everyone you know about the dangers of distracted driving. Check out DrivePromise by Edmunds.
And remember that safer roads start with smart, focused driving.
Spring can be a difficult season for parents of high school students. Torn between wanting their kids to embrace their waning high school days and keeping them safe, many parents may find themselves worrying about the events they just encouraged their teen to attend.
The reality is that this season of proms, graduation parties and end-of-school celebrations can be a dangerous time for teens to be on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control ( CDC ), motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2012, 23 percent of drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking. And at all levels of blood alcohol concentration, a teen is at greater risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash than an older driver.
You don't have to blow the whistle on fun, but it's an important time to remain being an advocate for safe driving practices . Here are some tips for keeping your teen safe, and maintaining your own sanity.
Start With Conversation
You've probably already talked to your teen about safe driving, but with big events on the horizon, it's a good time for a refresher.
"Start the conversation by reminding your son or daughter that you love him or her, and want them to have a great time," suggests Dr. John F. Curry, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University.
Then, remind them about the dangers of drinking and driving. "Be honest about how serious you are," says Curry. "Be clear about what is and is not acceptable, and be ready to set limits accordingly."
Distracted driving is also worth discussing again. The typical high school student's social calendar is on overload with invitations, gossip and college news this time of year. Even your normally responsible teen may find it difficult to ignore the beckoning chime of an incoming text.
Reach Out to Resources
Each spring, high schools, communities and law enforcement agencies host awareness events that deliver blunt reminders to party-bound students. Licensed therapist Randi Klein has worked with Agoura High School in California for the past 15 years to present " Every 15 Minutes ," a national program that uses staged accidents, mock court sessions and student "deaths" at high schools to remind students of the potentially tragic consequences of impaired driving. Klein says that parents can use programs like this to initiate conversation with their teens.
"Literature is sent home ahead of time, giving parents tips on talking to their kids, and there are also parental education nights," says Klein.
Similar initiatives include "wrecked vehicle" displays or mock car accidents. Discuss these events with your teen, who may be left shaken by the graphic stories or images.
Don't shy away from voicing your concerns about drinking and driving with other parents. All parents want to keep their children safe, and discussing common expectations can only strengthen your stance.
"Don't feel like you're one parent against the world," says Dawn Teixeira, president and CEO of Students Against Destructive Decisions ( SADD ) in Marlborough, Massachusetts. "It really does take a village to raise a child."
Provide a Ride
Don't try to skirt the problem by offering to drive your teens to events. By senior year, no one wants to be chauffeured by their parents. Support their quest for independent sources of transportation, such as group limos or private buses.
For less formal events, consider asking a sensible, college-age sibling to drive. Just make sure the driver won't decide to join the party. Make sure your child knows he can always call you for a ride if he, or a friend who is driving, shouldn't get behind the wheel.
"One key promise is that discussion is deferred.... That doesn't mean there won't be consequences, just that there won't be any shouting or screaming right after the pickup," says Teixeira.
Also, remind them about other options in your area, such as calling a taxi or taking public transportation.
Don't Become a Pal
Some parents are resigned to the idea that kids will drink anyway and that it will be safer if they do it at home. And so they host parties, turning a blind eye to the presence of alcohol. Aside from potentially tragic consequences, this decision is problematic for several other reasons, Teixeira says.
"Research shows that if teens feel they have parental approval, they'll drink more down the road," says Teixeira. "It's a short-term solution to a long-term problem." Underage drinking is also illegal in every state, and many states have social host liability laws , imposing stiff fines and penalties on the adults responsible.
Curry urges parents facing these party-at-home situations to examine their motives. Don't be fooled into thinking such a party will boost your teen's popularity. "The peers who then want to be (at the party) are doing so just to have a permissive setting, and not because they want to be a genuine friend" to the teen.
Another false assumption is that being more "fun" will bring parents closer to their increasingly independent children. "The teenager doesn't need a buddy, but rather a parent," adds Curry. "Sometimes the parent who gets into the buddy role is too motivated to be liked, at the risk of dropping their responsibility to protect and guide."
Offer an Alternative
Soon to be scattered among colleges, most teens are craving time together — more so than alcohol. Offer to host a substance-free event. The key is clear communication between you and your teen about the party, Teixeira says. She says parents should ensure that their children invite friends who share their values and that they make it clear alcohol and drugs aren't on the menu and won't be tolerated.
Allow your teen to steer the planning, choosing the food, music and decorations. If money permits, offer some extras to make the evening special, such as catered food, a band, a DJ or a supervised bonfire or cookout.
Give them space at the party, but remain vigilant. To avoid controversy during the event, announce your level of involvement ahead of time.
"Let them know that you'll be coming through to refill soft drinks or bring out food, or you might stop and chat with a friend," says Teixeira. Your goal is to be present, but not to join the party. Many parents and teens set the boundaries by signing SADD's parent-teen contract .
With good planning, communication and support for responsible choices, you can enjoy this memorable time as much as your teen does.
Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts crash tests on new vehicles and reports their performance on its Safercar.gov Web site. For the 2015 model year, the agency will rate nearly 89 percent of the new model year vehicles under its 5-Star Safety Rating program.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a private nonprofit organization funded by automobile insurance companies and insurance associations, conducts its own testing program and issues its own ratings. NHTSA and IIHS conduct different tests , and neither organization tests all cars on the market. But they do test the volume sellers. IIHS also made it a point in 2011 to test such innovative cars as the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt . NHTSA, in turn, tested the 2013 Tesla Model S, which led to a dust-up over the Tesla's claims about the vehicle's safety superiority.
Here are NHTSA's Five-Star safety ratings . Note that you can't compare 1990-2010 vehicles with those from 2011 forward. Starting with 2011 models, NHTSA introduced tougher tests and new ratings in its Five-Star system. The agency says they provide more information about vehicle safety and crash-avoidance technologies.
The IIHS ratings page includes the testing information for individual cars. You can see which vehicles earned IIHS's " Top Safety Pick " designation.
America's growing waistline and the different risks obese drivers face in a car crash prompted Humanetics Innovative Solutions , the only U.S. manufacturer of crash test dummies, to unveil in October 2014 the first-ever adult obese crash test dummy. Such a dummy has become necessary if we want vehicles and restraint systems that protect people of all sizes during a car crash, says Christopher O'Connor, the company's CEO and president.
"In the 1980s, the obesity rate for adults was about 15 percent, and that's when the modern crash test dummy designs were really developed. Today the obesity rate for adults is close to 40 percent. So the average population has changed dramatically," says O'Connor. He cautions that given these statistics, not adding an obese crash test dummy may eventually result in negative vehicle safety outcomes.
The prototype dummy simulates a 273-pound person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 . Studies have shown that vehicle occupants with a BMI between 35 and 40 are anywhere between 21 percent and 51 percent more likely to die in a car crash than occupants with a lower BMI. In deciding the need for an obese dummy, O'Connor cites a study from UC Berkeley's Safe Transportation and Research Education Center, which found that obese occupants with a BMI of 30 and higher were 78 percent more likely to die in a car crash.
"So if we have 40 percent of our population of our adult drivers obese, and they are 78 percent more likely to die [in a car crash], the question is really why wouldn't we do this? It's something that needs to be done," O'Connor says.
In its announcement, Humanetics said the new obese crash test dummy prototype would be available for testing in early 2015 and that it was making the dummy available to the automotive industry to evaluate and compare to its own data.
But this new prototype may not be the safety testing solution to address the risks of obese occupants, say experts. For now, most organizations focused on vehicle safety have no plans to use the new obese dummy in safety testing.
"The basics of crashworthiness wouldn't change with a different dummy," says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent nonprofit organization that tests vehicles and rates them as good, acceptable, marginal or poor. "The key to performing well in the IIHS tests is keeping the vehicle's occupant compartment intact. If the occupant compartment stays together and resists intrusion, then the safety belts and airbags can do their jobs well. A different dummy wouldn't change the fact that some people are at a higher risk in crashes than others."
Adding New Crash Test Dummies
Deciding when to include a new model among the family of crash test dummies isn't as simple as it sounds, says Matthew Reed, head of the biosciences group at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).
"The new designs have not yet been validated extensively. More work is needed to verify that the new dummy behaves like obese occupants in crashes," explains Reed. "The interactions between obese occupants and the seatbelts and airbags designed to protect them need to be better understood before we can determine whether an obese crash dummy would be useful."
Humanetics tested the new obese crash test dummy with the University of Virginia, which ran side-by-side sled crash tests on obese human cadavers. "This is a very typical process in validating crash test dummies, to see that they are acting exactly the same way as a human being would act," says O'Connor.
Reed says further research on obese test dummies is needed to determine how best to position the dummy, and how to place the seatbelt on the dummy to achieve results that will drive the best restraint system design.
"Testing is also needed to verify that improving protection for obese adults does not reduce protection for other populations," Reed says. "For example, stiffer belt systems designed for people with large body weight could increase the risk of chest injury for older occupants with weaker ribs."
Humanetics' own preliminary analysis found that "the obese dummy's seated posture translates farther forward on the seat compared to a non-obese occupant and changes the seatbelt positioning, creating new challenges for effective restraint countermeasures and knee impact protection," a company statement said.
While Reed says he welcomes the opportunity to do the evaluation, UMTRI takes its lead on whether to test new dummies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency responsible for testing vehicle safety. NHTSA hasn't yet asked UMTRI to evaluate these new obese dummies.
"NHTSA works to protect vehicle occupants of various sizes, ages and genders," the agency said in a statement provided to Edmunds.com. "We're aware of the new dummy developed by Humanetics and look forward to learning more about it, but it's too soon to speculate on if it would ever be added to our program or family of dummies ."
O'Connor says NHTSA is aware of the risks that obese drivers face, and may want to do something about it, but that politics often gets in the way.
"NHTSA is a glacial-moving government body. Back in the 1980s, NHTSA was the primary [safety] regulator in the world, because they were really the first," says O'Connor, who has developed new child safety dummies for European and Japanese new car assessment programs.
"The world doesn't quite revolve around NHTSA anymore," he says. "It revolves around the needs and what challenges there are and what can be done. We took a very proactive look to say the data points to a problem; let's develop a solution that companies can use."
The last time NHTSA added a new crash test dummy was in 2012. That was when it began testing a dummy representing a 10-year-old child weighing more than 65 pounds to evaluate new safety requirements of child restraint systems, including car seats and boosters for that age and weight group.
The wait-and-see approach being taken by IIHS, NHTSA and vehicle manufacturers is typical of the lengthy process of adding a new crash test dummy, O'Connor says.
"Of course they are going to say, we're going to evaluate, we're going to look, we're going to study, that's the stage we're at right now," he says. "The introduction of a new crash test dummy can sometimes take 10 years plus, just to go through all the political challenges before it really gets used and tested. Auto companies don't want to be forced to do anything. Regulators, even if they want to put it out, have to test it, do some analysis and determine when's a good time to be able to introduce it."
For real-world results to possibly develop a new adult obese dummy, UMTRI researchers are currently using computational models of obese occupants, along with belt fit and posture data measured on volunteers, to determine how restraint systems should be changed to improve protection for obese occupants.
"Once the computer simulations tell us how the restraint systems need to be changed, we can assess whether a new dummy, and associated test procedures, will drive improved vehicle design," Reed says.
So far, safety restraint suppliers, particularly those interested in adaptive restraint technology such as airbags and seatbelts designed to react to different body sizes and shapes, have expressed interest in the new obese dummy, says O'Connor. Humanetics expects to deliver dummies to these companies for testing by the middle of the year.