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Are you driving a newer model car? If so there's a chance that you're driving around with some pretty spiffy computer-controlled driving aids that could potentially save your life when things don't go according to plan. Here's what you need to know to ensure you get the most from your car's technology.
Stop Time with Electronic Stability Control
Imagine you’re in a situation in which you're about to lose control of your vehicle—you're sliding on black ice, run over a pile of wet leaves or drive through a deep area of pooled water—and you want to hand the wheel over to someone far more skilled than yourself. A NASCAR racer or World Driving Champion, for example. Chances are, such a person won't be in your car, but if you have electronic stability control (ESC) you will experience something even better.
With ESC, the brakes are applied to the correct wheels so that the car returns to its intended path. Simple as that. Easier than the basic mechanics of a car. Of course there are some caveats: ESC does not defy the laws of physics, nor can it protect against human error. Tempting fate by driving with bald tires or doing 60-mph, instead of the suggested 20, on an exit ramp is still not a good idea. But if your car is in great condition and you're following the rules of the road, ESC could become your new BFF if it saves your life. The government credits ESC with saving over 2,200 lives in a three-year period.
Before you expect ESC to rescue you in your moment of trouble, check to see if your car has it. Starting in the mid-1990s it was installed on high-end cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that one-third of vehicles had it by 2006. Government regulations require more than half of all vehicles manufactured post-September 2008 to have ESC, and starting in 2012 pickups and SUV's must be equipped with ESC.
When you turn your key to the "on" position, you will see a light that says “ESC” on the dash. Prior to the standardization, car manufacturers used their own names for the feature, so it might be ESP, VDC, VSC or DSC.
Do note that ESC is different from traction control. The later keeps the wheels from spinning when you're accelerating heavily on a slippery road. This is a different system than ESC, and your vehicle might have both. You may be able to disable the traction control function, but it's unlikely that you can disable ESC.
Successfully Use Anti-Lock Brakes With the Three “S's”
Using anti-lock braking systems are a snap when you remember three words: stomp, stay and steer. First you must stomp hard on the brake pedal. Then stay, keep your foot on the pedal, as you steer your vehicle around the obstacle that you're trying to avoid. Once you've got these three words ingrained in your mind, you'll be able to avoid any danger that you come across.
It never hurts to practice these skills so that they're like second nature when you do have to use them. Find an empty parking lot and practice while driving at a speed of around 25 miles per hour.
Since the mid-1990s more than half of all vehicles come with ABS. You can find an indicator light on the dash. If you've got ESC, it's very likely that you have ABS as well.
ABS + ESC + CMS= Increased Driving Safety
Got that? In simpler terms, when ABS and ESC are combined with a collision mitigation system (CMS) driving safety increases. A CMS system applies pressure to the brakes when it gets data which shows that a collision might occur. Different manufacturers use different names, but they don't require much work on your part: keep your tires in good condition, drive for the conditions and never text!
The CMS uses sonar, lasers or radar to measure the distance between your car and the one in front of you. The computer system will engage the ABS if it detects a crash is going to occur and will reduce the speed to ensure you survive the wreck.
Learn more about on-the-road safety and how to better maximize your vehicle's resources by enrolling in a defensive driving course. Contact us today to sign up for the next session!
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