The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently brought attention to a pair of vehicle systems that are important for auto accident prevention. One is a high-tech system that is a new addition to the agency’s list of recommended safety features for new cars. The other is low-tech and present on all cars, but one which drivers need to carefully maintain.
The agency added rearview video systems to its list of recommended advanced technology features – part of its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The program serves as a non-binding list of recommendations for automakers and customers to consider when making or purchasing new cars.
The change to NCAP will be implemented in two phases. Beginning immediately, the agency will list vehicle models having rearview video systems on its website at safercar.gov. Next, the agency will evaluate those systems to determine whether they meet certain criteria. Those criteria are: video coverage of a 10 by 20 foot zone directly behind the vehicle; display of the video image within two seconds of changing gears into reverse; and a display large enough to discern objects in the image and avoid crashing into those objects.
The NHTSA also turned its attention in a recent report to a decidedly low-tech vehicle system: tires. The agency pointed out safety issues with tire aging, saying that rubber breaks down over time regardless of whether the tire is in use – a process accelerated by heat. As tires age, they become more prone to failure. The age of spare tires and of tires sitting on store or warehouse shelves must therefore be considered as a safety factor just as crucial as tread depth.
That same report also covered the importance of tire pressure and systems that monitor it. Tires gradually lose air over time even when the vehicle is at rest, so drivers should check their tire pressure at least once per month. Underinflated tires lead to longer stopping distances, decreased handling, and increased heat buildup. They are more prone to tread separation and blowout.
Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are mandatory in the U.S. for all passenger cars, light trucks, and vans beginning with model year 2008. TPMS systems automatically alert drivers when a tire is underinflated by more than 25 percent. The NHTSA estimates that TPMS cuts in half the probability that a given vehicle will have one or more significantly underinflated tires. The fuel savings attributed to proper inflation due to TPMS in a single year is estimated at over half a billion dollars.
Help prevent auto accidents by checking your tires regularly for proper inflation and familiarizing yourself with your vehicle’s TPMS, if applicable.