How to Choose the Right Car for You: Winter Safety Features

How to Choose the Right Car for You: Winter Safety Features

When choosing which car you may want to purchase, be sure to consider the weather.  Walking in the cold is not usually fun, and driving in it can be dangerous.  If your region gets snow and/or ice during the winter (not to mention the wind and rain of this cold season) there are some features you may want to consider that will make driving safer not only for you but for others on the road as well.

Electronic Stability Control (“ESC”)

ESC uses sensors and a microcomputer to monitor your steering. It will apply brakes or modulate engine power to help you keep control of the car. They are very effective in reducing crashes. In fact, there was a study from Highway Loss Data Institute showing that ESC reduces fatal single-vehicular crash risk by 49% for cars and SUV’s.*

Antilock Brakes (“ABS”)

This feature has been around for a while so you may already know what it does and how important it is.  Your ABS keeps your brakes from locking up which is needed on black ice or wet roads.  Think of it like an umbrella. It is better have one and not need it than need one and not have one.

Adaptive Headlights

It is very hard to drive when you cannot see the road during winter.  Adaptive headlights help to solve the problem.  They have small motors that adjust the headlights, moving them to light up where you need them most like around curves, and helping in fog and rain.

Forward Collision Warning and Auto-Braking

Sometimes reaction time is everything — the sooner you react, the more chance you can involve a crash.  This feature helps you have a faster reaction time.  If its sensors detect something is getting to close to the car, it will auto-brake to aid in avoiding a collision. This may be very helpful especially for older people or when a person gets distracted.

LED tail lights

LED lights are not only brighter but they also last longer. With LED tail lights, you can be seen easier during heavy snow, rain or fog.

Snow chains

Snow chain are not actually a “feature” per se, but they should still be considered for a car in winter.  They fit on your tires to make driving easier in the snow. They also help you maintain control of the car, and you may find it easier to drive up and down hills.


* Highway Loss Data Institute

What is ABS and What It Does for You

emergency braking car on wet road

When you are considering which car to purchase, you should factor in ABS.  Many people don’t know that ABS (anti-lock braking system) makes a difference:

  • Since ABS, there has been a 35% decrease in frontal collisions on wet roads.
  • There has been a 9% decrease in frontal impacts on dry roads.
  • In controlled test conditions, 58% of drivers without ABS strayed from their intended path after braking and only 24% of drivers with ABS did the same.

As you can see, ABS is a very good feature to have.  It comes as a standard feature on many cars, but sometimes it is an add-on. As you look at cars, think of ABS like an umbrella. It’s better to have one and not need it rather than need it and not have it.

You might have heard someone say, “I pushed the brake pedal, and they locked up!” When your wheels lock up, you skid, you can hear the screech of the tires and often you see smoke and/or skid marks on the pavement.  Skidding isn’t good, but it is especially dangerous in rain, snow or ice. When it happens, you are at serious risk for losing control of the car and having an accident.

To “unlock” your wheels, you need to lessen the pressure on the brakes until the wheels start spinning again.  If you drive a car without ABS, instead of pressing on the brake and holding it, you need to apply pressure until just before the wheels would lock up.  If the wheels lock up or you are trying to keep them from doing so, you lessen pressure on the brake and then apply it once again (which is called “feathering”).  In the midst of bad weather or bad drivers around you, it’s not always easy to do.

That’s where ABS comes in.  ABS is designed to keep your wheels from locking up when you press the brakes.  With ABS, a computer will handle all that for you using wheel speed sensors, hydraulic units and electronic control unit. All these combined make up an ABS.

ABS is very useful in bad weather or during an emergency when you need to suddenly stop your car. It takes care of feathering your brakes so your wheels don’t lock up. (The ABS use sensors to monitor your brakes and keep them from locking at a sudden braking.) As a result, you maintain better control of your car in order to avoid a wreck.