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How Important Is Safety Technology in Cars?

Technology Safety in Cars
Car technology and safety features have come a long way. While major tech companies are currently racing to produce the first self-driving cars, it wasn’t until 1959 that Volvo debuted the first three-point seat belt that’s standard in vehicles across the country today.
Considering cars are already beginning  to park themselves, self-adjust in a lane, and automatically brake when another vehicle gets too close, how important is safety technology in cars today? And how much are people willing to pay for these features? We surveyed 1,000 Americans to learn how much staying safe behind the wheel really matters. Continue reading to learn more.

Safety vs. Tech Features

On a scale of one to five, participants ranked side air bags as the most important car safety feature (an average of 4.18). Side-impact air bags inflate even more quickly than standard frontal air bags and have even been found to protect against injuries that a three-point seat belt can’t.
However, the next most important feature was USB ports (3.69) – a non-safety tech feature ranked higher than other safety elements like blind spot warnings, automatic emergency braking, and reverse rearview cameras.
Cruise control was another convenience drivers ranked as more important than certain safety features, but premium tech upgrades like a heated steering wheel, headrest DVD players, and Apple CarPlay were ranked among the lowest.

Shelling Out for Safety Features

value and cost
Side air bags were so important to people surveyed that they were willing to pay an additional $423 for this elevated safety option. Despite their willingness to pay over $400, side air bags can cost up to $1,000.
Besides side air bags, only two safety features were worth more than $300 to respondents: reverse rearview cameras and self-parking functionality. Rearview cameras cost anywhere from $150 to $1,500 on average, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a ruling that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds will be required to include them beginning in May 2018.
Added features like inflatable seat belts and integrated child booster seats were the least valuable to drivers – only worth an additional $88 or less.

The More We Trust A Safety Feature, the More We Pay

people willing to pay
Side air bags were ranked as worth the most additional money to people polled and were also the most trusted feature. Despite not being mandatory, most manufacturers include side air bags as standard equipment. Side air bags protecting the head reduce the risk of a driver’s death by more than a third – and in SUVs, by 52 percent.
Both reverse rearview cameras and self-parking functionality were worth more than $300 to those surveyed, but only rearview cameras were ranked nearly a four out of five in trustworthiness. Self-parking functionality was ranked much lower in trust (an average of 2.7). Despite parking cars 10 percent faster and with 37 percent more accuracy, many drivers still don’t trust self-parking systems to take control of the wheel fully.  
Safety features like front and rear parking sensors were worth less than $200 to participants but were ranked an average of 3.4 in trust.

Ranking Tech and Safety Features

importance of car technology
Depending on the type of car, the most popular safety and tech features varied from driver to driver.
For participants behind the wheel of a sedan, SUV, or minivan, cruise control was the most important tech feature and blind spot warnings were the most important safety feature. While pickup truck drivers were also most interested in cruise control, front fog lamps and automatic emergency braking were the most important safety features.
Regardless of car preference, headrest DVD player screens and Apple CarPlay were the least valuable tech upgrades.
While integrated booster seats and inflatable seat belts were widely considered unnecessary safety features, self-parking functionality was the least important feature to those with minivans or vans.

The Value and Trust of Safety Features

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People who drive an Acura were the most likely to rank safety features as the most important. However, BMW drivers ranked their overall trust of their car’s safety features the highest. In general, BMW cars are listed as offering optional advanced safety systems, currently providing options for blind spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, and rollover protection systems, among others.
Kia drivers felt these safety features were the least important, and participants with a Chrysler were the least trusting of their vehicle’s safety features.

Safety Feature Priorities, by Region

most important car safety

Side air bags were considered the most important safety feature in every region.
In the West and Northeast, respondents felt the next most important feature was blind spot warnings. In the West, vehicles of this size are most likely to have major blind spots and are the most likely to benefit from warning systems. Participants in the South, listed reverse rearview cameras as the second most important safety feature.
Automatic emergency braking was another important feature across the country, in addition to rear parking sensors in the West and Northeast.

Trusted Safety Features, by Generation

most trusted car safety
People of every age trusted side air bags more than any other safety feature.
However, baby boomers were less likely to trust automatic emergency braking than Gen Xers and millennials, and they didn’t list front parking sensors or rear cross-traffic warnings as trusted options at all.
Reverse rearview cameras were listed among the most trusted features by all participants, along with front fog lamps and rear parking sensors.

How Accidents Impact Upgrades

people willing to pay
By some estimates, the average driver has an accident nearly every 18 years.
Respondents who were in a car accident were willing to spend nearly $120 more than those who weren’t in a car accident for side air bags. Reverse rearview cameras were also worth more, averaging $50 more to drivers who experienced a vehicle accident, in addition to blind spot warning sensors, which averaged $38 more.
Tech upgrades like self-parking functionality and automatic emergency braking were generally worth more to drivers who were never in a car accident.

How Children Impact the Importance of Safety

most important safety features
Participants who had children rated the importance of side air bags higher than those without, in addition to blind spot warning sensors and automatic emergency braking.
In fact, parents were more likely to rate nearly every available safety feature as more important than those without children.
Only front fog lamps, forward collision warnings, and self-parking functionality were considered more important to drivers without children.

Where to Save and Spend

Across the U.S., certain safety features are regarded as trustworthy and valuable. Side air bags – though not mandated for new vehicles at the time of this writing – were considered the most important and trustworthy safety feature a car could have.
When it comes to premium safety features, just because you’re willing to pay more doesn’t mean you should. The same goes for car insurance. The best in coverage shouldn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Even renewing your car insurance without shopping around could be costing you big. Visit us online today at to find free, customized comparison quotes to see how much you could be saving.
We surveyed 1,000 Americans about their opinions on car safety features.
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