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With the Latest Safety Features, Car Insurance May Cost Less

Younger people might not believe it, but when parents joke about the unsafe conditions of cars when they were kids – they're not joking. Older cars didn't have much going for them in the safety department. Most didn't even have safety belts.

There's more to it than stories, though. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average car out on the road in 2012 had around a 56% lower fatality risk than the average vehicle from the 1950s. On top of that, the NHTSA claims an increase of 115 lives saved in 1960 to 27,621 in 2012 thanks to vehicle safety developments.

But while safety is essential, what does that mean financially for anyone who wants to buy a car? A new car is expensive after all, with the average cost climbing to around $38,723 during 2020. Well, some car safety features can potentially lower the insurance costs for your new vehicle. Here's what they look like and how they can help you.

Standard Vehicle Safety Features

Although these are standard car safety features, car insurance companies often include them in their discounts. If you have tech like this in your car, they will likely consider it part of a vehicle equipment discount. So, you don't always need the newest thing on the market to increase your savings.

You don’t always need the newest technology on the market to increase your savings.

These are the industry standard car safety features you're likely most familiar with:

Airbags

Patents for vehicle "safety cushions" date back to the 1950s, but automakers didn't start developing them really until the 1970s. Even then, the U.S. didn't require them until the late 1990s.

Now, the most up-to-date data from the NHTSA report frontal airbags saved an estimated 2,790 lives (of occupants 13 and older) in 2017. From 1987 to 2017, the approximate number of lives saved hits over 50,000.

But that's just frontal airbags. Side airbags are also a part of federal requirements, which are split into two categories: side torso airbags and curtain airbags. The former typically border the front seats, although some models have them in the back, and the latter comes down from the ceiling above the window. As a result, they protect passengers' heads from hitting the window.

There are also inflatable seat belts which reduce chest injuries and possibly head injuries as well.

Anti-lock brakes (ABS)

If you own a vehicle before the 1990s likely know the phrase "pump the brakes." It was a driving maneuver meant to help if the vehicle started skidding to avoid locking up the wheels. Thus, ensuring more control over the car.

ABS take that burden off of your hands somewhat. They were introduced in the 1970s, although sparingly, and only made a requirement for automakers during 2012. Now, you can use them to help make shorter stops and keep their brakes from locking up. That allows them to maintain more control over the steering wheel, ultimately avoiding potential accidents.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

Similar to antilock brakes, electronic stability control systems became a required addition in all new cars in 2011.

Essentially, electronic stability control systems help your car from "plowing out" or "spinning out" when the road is slippery, curvy, or requires a hard steering maneuver. Sensors and a computer help stop the vehicle from sliding or skidding by applying the brakes at the right time. The sensors track details such as wheel speed, sideways motion, and rotation.

This car safety feature may be helpful for anyone who drives a taller or top-heavy vehicle with a tendency to roll over.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Every vehicle made after October 31, 2006 must have a low-tire-pressure warning system in it. This is important because your tires are actually a vulnerable part of your car. Although commercials and advertisements tend to emphasize the "toughness" or "durability" of a company's tires, it's relatively easy to damage them.

Temperature fluctuations can decrease the pressure, ultimately leading to more wear and tear or even a blowout. There are a number of reasons why air may escape your tire, and not all of them lead to a quick flat. Some simply seep air slowly through the rubber or a small pinhole, making it hard for you to detect. But, the TPMS monitors any pressure changes, helping you avoid the hazard.

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New Car Safety Features to Consider

Cars typically come with safety features such as turn signals, airbags, seatbelts, brakes, and other warning systems. But, now, automotive companies constantly set their sights toward the future. So, every new car comes jam-packed with a wide range of car safety technology. With so many offered, consumers have their pick of aesthetic choices when they visit the lot.

Safety features should be at the forefront of design and your top priority when researching cars.

But more than paint jobs or leather interiors, safety features should be at the forefront of design and your top priority when researching cars. That way, you can protect not only yourself but your passengers and anyone else sharing the road with you.

Here are some of the features worth considering in your next car:

Adaptive Headlights

These headlights can in handy when you're traveling at night and around curving terrain. They adjust themselves based on factors like speed, steering, and elevation to illuminate the road ahead in the right direction.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) studied this particular feature. Their findings showed a reduction of 5.8% in the frequency of property damage liability claims. In addition, collision claim frequency dropped by 1.1% as well.

Correct lighting also makes you more noticeable to fellow drivers on the road.

Backup Cameras

Sometimes, all you need to avoid a collision is a better view. Backup cameras help mitigate the risk of hitting something while parking or reversing by showing you everything behind you. Cameras vary between manufacturers and may link to other features. For example, they may warn you when an object is too close or brake to avoid a collision.

While it became standard for cars to include a rear-view camera after the 2018 model year, certain drivers may drastically benefit from the technology. In particular, those with current or previous spinal injuries.

Blind Spot Detection

Sometimes, it's too easy to back up into something and all because of our car's blind spot. This blind spot detection technology helps you avoid that using either a radar or a camera. Once it detects a vehicle or item in the lane next to you or behind you, it lets you know.

Some versions of the system alert you using a sound if you move too close to one of those objects. They may also sound off if you activate your turn signal while a car is in the next lane over.

Collision Avoidance Systems - Forward Collision

Similar to the blind spot warning, collision avoidance uses a camera or radar to find objects nearby. But this technology focuses on the car's path ahead instead of the space next to or behind it.

Essentially, if the system detects an object dead ahead, it draws the driver's attention. A basic form of this is just the forward-collision warning, which uses a visual and audible alert. More advanced systems may engage automatic emergency braking if you don't take action, though.

How Car Safety Features Can Cut Your Insurance Cost

Safety is its own reward, right? Well, yes. But insurance costs aren't always cheap. According to the AAA's 2020 Your Driving Costs study, annual insurance costs average around $1,202 (a weighted average). And the more you use your car and depend on it, the higher the cost tends to go.

Safety is its own reward, right? Well, yes. But insurance costs aren’t always cheap.

For example, high-premium states, such as New York at around $1,425 according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), tend to be highly urban as well. In addition, they usually have a greater traffic density.

So, while being a safe driver is vital to your wellbeing and others', you're probably wondering how it can help your wallet, too.

Safety Equipment Discount

One way is simply through your standard safety features. For example, some insurance providers may offer a general auto safety equipment discount, such as American Family Insurance. Or, the company may allow you to stack equipment discounts when you have multiple types installed in your vehicle. But, discounts for individual safety features may result in smaller discounts versus savings for a flat discount.

Discounts on Coverage for Older Vehicles

Other car insurance companies may not offer a discount on the premium itself but a specific type of coverage instead. For instance, State Farm gives customers who own older vehicles with a passive restraint system installed a discount of up to 40% on their Medical Payments coverage.

Newer Safety Features

Alternatively, newer protection features aim to help car owners drive safer and avoid collisions. Recent LexisNexis Risk Solutions research supported this claim when it analyzed a random selection of 11 million U.S. vehicles from the model years 2014 to 2019. The vehicles equipped with core ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) features showed a 27% decrease in bodily injury claim frequency. They also showed a reduction of 19% in property damage frequency.

By installing safety features, you may reduce your number of claims, traffic violations and at-fault accidents.

Both your driving record and claims history factor into your overall premium costs. By installing safety features, you may reduce your number of claims, traffic violations, and at-fault accidents, which all drive up insurance expenses. Thus, you may save money on your premium and avoid the cost of claims in the future.

Extra Car Safeguards

LATCH System

Something you may want to consider is the LATCH system. This acronym stands for lower anchors and tethers for children, and all vehicles must have this system. Its general purpose is to make installing a child's seat simpler and more secure. Previously, incompatible seat belt systems made it hard to install children's restraints, which discouraged their use. LATCH improves on that, so everyone uses the appropriate seating.

However, some vehicles may not actually have a simple LATCH system, even though it's been a broadscale requirement since the early 2000s. With that in mind, parents or potential parents should test the LATCH system before they purchase a car. You can try installing a seat during the time you test it out.

Telematics

Another piece of technology in your car that everyone should know is telematics. It's an automated service that combines the abilities of a cellphone with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology. Simply press a button, and drivers can speak with a central dispatch center. At that time, they know the vehicle's location and can instruct the driver in emergency situations. For example, they can dictate emergency aid or route directions. They can also call emergency services if the driver is injured after an accident.

In addition, the information telematics collects can help with maintenance and savings. The tech monitors things like fuel consumption and engine load, which helps the next time you have to bring your vehicle into the shop. But it also can track information such as driver behavior – helping you identify patterns to fix.

Unlike the LATCH system or any of the above features, telematics may cost a monthly subscription fee, somewhere between $15 and $20 per month usually. But, like other items listed here, it may earn you discounts through your insurer.

More Protection Attributes

Other features your car may have include:

  • Brake assist
  • Active head restraints
  • adaptive cruise control
  • Backup camera systems
  • Airbags
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assist

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Other Car Insurance Discounts to Consider for Safe Drivers

Car insurance providers offer discounts for various factors other than having safety features. They want to reward you when you drive safe as well. Some worth investigating include:

  • Good driver discount: If you drive a predetermined amount of time without an at-fault accident or a moving violation, you can receive this type of discount.

  • Usage-based insurance programs: Some insurers offer programs and downloadable apps to their drivers that track their driving habits. Through it, they can earn rewards. One example is Nationwide's SmartRide® program which can save you up to 40%.

  • Telematics discount: Drivers who own vehicles compatible with technology like OnStar can also save through a discount. Your insurance provider may use it to track your miles or as a reward for the extra security it provides.

  • Accident-free discount: Some insurers have a separate discount when you go without a chargeable accident for a specified number of years.

  • Defensive driving course discount: Depending on your location, you may have access to a driver course supported by your insurer. They not only teach valuable skills but help lower coverage costs.

  • Anti-theft discount: Driving isn't the only safety concern. Some insurers want you to protect your vehicle from potential thieves or vandals. Anti-theft devices deter these risks and can possibly result in savings.

The Bottom Line

We depend on our cars. For everyday mundane tasks, commuting to work, and fun weekend adventures. Sometimes it feels like we spend our whole lives behind the wheel. While that might be a slight exaggeration, the average American spends around 18 days driving annually, according to a OnePoll study conducted for Cooper Tire. If we trust so much of our lives and our passengers' lives to our cars, then it's worth considering how we can make them safer.

There is a wide range of protection features available to you as a driver. And a number of them can help reduce your premium or coverage costs through discounts. Or, they can make you a better driver, decreasing your risk of a collision or mistakes in the first place. But it's important to keep in mind the role your insurer plays.

Before you purchase additional safety features or a car souped-up with them, consider talking to your insurance agent. Some features may actually increase the cost of your insurance. That's because certain installations are expensive to replace or repair if damaged in a collision. With that in mind, discuss the options available to you. Your insurance agent can guide you to the right balance between expense and security. To see the lowest insurance rates available to you, enter your zip code below and answer a few questions.

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