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5 key car safety features to protect your most precious cargo

Author: Jennifer Morrison, Mazda USA’s Leader of Vehicle Safety

Even if you pride yourself on your cautious driving habits, accidents can still occur unexpectedly on the road, putting both you and your child’s safety at risk. It’s a truth I’ve witnessed time and time again throughout my career, and it’s why I’m such a strong advocate for crash avoidance technology.

According to a joint study between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety (PARTS), vehicles equipped with features like forward collision warning and automatic braking can help reduce crashes by 49%. It’s why as a Manager for Vehicle Safety at Mazda North American Operations, I put myself in the shoes of potential car owners, working hard with my team to deliver safety technology that I would feel comfortable relying on to protect me and my loved ones.

To ensure my family is protected on the road, these are the car safety features I always recommend prioritizing when shopping for a vehicle.


Blind Spot Monitoring

When it comes to blind spots, merging into a lane can feel like a perilous game of chance. 

Even if you double-check by looking over your shoulder, your children could unknowingly obstruct your view. Teen drivers, especially those with less experience, may also be more likely to miss blind spots or misjudge the distance and speed of other vehicles.

Blind spot monitoring eliminates any sense of uncertainty, using sensors or cameras on either side of the vehicle to help you identify potential obstacles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that crash rates for cars with blind spot monitoring were 14% lower than those without. With blind spot monitoring, you can merge confidently, ensuring the safety of yourself and your little ones.


Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking

Close calls can happen in an instant. With the help of cameras and sensors, forward collision warning detects potential threats and alerts you through a flashing icon on your dashboard or a warning sound. Some vehicles might also employ automatic emergency braking with this feature to reduce the chances of an impact. In Mazda’s case, that comes in the form of Smart Brake Support, which has come standard on all new Mazda vehicles in the US since 2019.

Forward collision warning is both straightforward and highly effective—in one study by the IIHS, this feature was responsible for a 22% reduction in crashes, highlighting instances where our reaction times may fall short.

If you've taken a moment to observe in a café or park lately, you'll realize how attached we've become to our cell phones. It's a habit that many of us take behind the wheel— one that often turns costly. In 2020, nearly 325,000 drivers were injured in an accident because of a distraction and over 3,000 lost their lives. The largest proportion of victims? Those aged 15-20. Focusing on the road, not our phones, is one of the most actionable steps drivers can take to ensure children’s safety while in the car.

All it takes is a few seconds of distraction to cause a collision, but automatic emergency braking can be your second line of defense. It can apply the brakes for you when sensors detect that you are approaching an object with which a collision is imminent. This critical feature not only helps minimize the risk of accidents but also provides added peace of mind for drivers navigating busy roads. Its ability to react swiftly can make all the difference in avoiding potential collisions and ensuring the safety of you, your passengers, and those in your path.


Lane Keep Assist

The CDC estimates that almost 6,000 fatal accidents every year may involve a sleepy driver. Did you know that parents lose 133 nights of sleep during the first year of their child’s life? Sleep deprivation can drastically impact a person’s memory and other functions. Parents should take extra care to be mindful of this during the first few years of their child’s life, and during times when sleep is hard to come by.

A common side effect of drowsy driving is lane drifting. However, there’s a handy feature that can help your vehicle stay in its lane: lane keep assist. Using a front-facing camera to detect road markings, this technology can provide alerts when you cross the line and assist in steering your car back into its lane, avoiding potential contact with neighboring vehicles or roadside hazards.


Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Reversing out of busy parking lots in a hefty SUV or minivan can be a hassle, especially with little ones in the backseat. With rear cross-traffic alert, your vehicle can let you know if something is blocking or approaching your path. It relies on the same technology as blind spot monitoring to identify people, objects, and vehicles that may be in the way, easing the tension of stressful moments. After a busy day of errands or family outings, the last thing you need is to find yourself in a tricky situation.


Rearview Cameras

Vehicles may have blind spots where the driver cannot see a small child or obstacle in front, behind, and on the sides. A rearview camera comes as standard equipment in all new vehicles 2018 and newer thanks to the work of Kids and Car Safety. However, if your vehicle does not have one, you may be able to add one via the aftermarket. Some vehicles, such as certain models of the Mazda CX-50 and CX-90, also have 360-view monitors, which help act as an extra set of eyes watching out for small children around your vehicle.


The More Precautions, The Better

Safety technology today changes fast, and it can sometimes leave you feeling overwhelmed by the options available. But with millions of car crashes happening every year, this technology can mean the difference between a close call and a dangerous accident. Whether you choose to hit the road in a practical sedan or a family-friendly SUV, the vehicle you choose can make all the difference. Advanced safety features, as well as traditional measures, can go a long way in protecting you and the ones you love.

Remember that as parents, little eyes are always watching what we do. How we act on the road may one day influence how they drive in the future. So put the phone away, keep your eyes on the road, and demonstrate what it means to be a safe driver—for our kids and for the other families also on the road.


Bio: Jennifer Morrison has spent over 15 years in road safety, first as an Investigator-in-Charge at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and now, as a Manager for Vehicle Safety at Mazda North American Operations. At Mazda, Morrison supervises the development of advanced safety and crash avoidance technology in vehicles to help better protect families on the road.


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