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When consumers are looking to purchase a new vehicle, safety ranks high on the list of things to consider.

As well as price, the availability of active safety systems is one of those factors that can have a significant influence on a customer’s decision while in the dealership showroom today.

Naturally, people want to protect themselves, and it’s certainly been interesting to see the evolution of crash avoidance technology and the huge impact they’ve had on the auto industry over the past years.

Who would have thought 20 years ago that cars nowadays have the ability to mitigate crashes in all sorts of situations? Not only can cars protect people in crashes, they have the ability to reduce the chance of  them from happening in the first place.

From avoiding rear-enders in the parking lot to averting a sideswipe while merging lanes, the radars and cameras equipped in today’s cars play a large role in reducing loss frequency.

As both crash avoidance technology and advanced driver assistance systems improve, features that were once considered an absolute luxury have become more and more affordable and attainable for the average Canadian in recent years.

According to Autotrader’s 2016 In-Vehicle Technology Shopping Influences Study, 70 per cent of consumers are more likely to consider purchasing a vehicle with autonomous features such as collision avoidance and automatic braking.

In the same year, J.D. Power also conducted a study and found that new vehicles equipped with safety technology like blind spot detection earned higher scores among consumers.

And while consumers continue to demand for more safety features, new legislation is being put in place to further elevate safety standards.

Back in March of 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced a commitment of 20 major auto manufacturers to make front crash prevention systems standard on nearly all models by 2022.

It’s clear that safety is always in the forefront of everyone’s mind, but how effective are these systems really?

According to research from the Highway Loss Data Institute, not all advanced driving assistance systems are created equal – some are more effective than others in helping to reduce accidents and auto property damage.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) emphasized that forward collision warning, lane departure warning, side assist view and adaptive headlights are the most effective systems in reducing accidents on the road.

In fact, both the HLDI and NHTSA predict that if all vehicles in the United States were to be equipped with these systems, there would be a 6 per cent reduction in crashes with injuries and a 30 per cent reduction in fatal accidents. To put that in numbers, there were 275 fatal crashes out of the 57,000 casualty crashes reported to ICBC in 2015. Theoretically, 82 of those fatalities in B.C. Could have been prevented with crash avoidance technology.

Vehicles with front crash prevention options are also more likely to earn the Top Safety Pick or the Top Safety Pick + awards from the IIHS.

The IIHS evaluates new vehicles on two aspects: how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash and the effectiveness of crash avoidance technology.

I strongly encourage anyone thinking about purchasing a new vehicle to thoroughly research all the safety options available and to make sure that you know how to use these features effectively to make our roads safer. Visit your local BC new car dealership and their staff and product experts will be happy to provide tutorials and briefings on how their safety systems function.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].