When it Comes to Cars, Safe is the New Cool

I can recall thinking that being licensed to drive would lift my social status to cool. Driving and the freedom that it provides to a newly licensed 16-year-old is unparalleled at that time in one's life. It’s too bad my parents’ insurance company did not feel the same way about my driving.  Now, as a father of a 16-year-old driver, my perspective on cool has changed. Recently, my daughter showed me photos of a 1970’s Volkswagen Beetle that she thought was cool and was hoping to buy.

To me it was anything but cool. It lacked the most basic of safety features that are standard in cars today like seat belts, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and air bags.  Having spent the last 30 years in the world of auto insurance, I have personally reviewed thousands of claims files and police reports.  When I helped my daughter learn to drive I forced her to listen to many of my “claims stories” about why and how accidents happen. I stressed the dangers of distracted driving and the importance of being attentive to her surroundings. Most of my warnings were about how to drive safely. Now, it was time for a lesson on modern safety features that would hopefully update her definition of cool.

Safety features are evolving rapidly; we’ve gone from seat belts to electronic stability control, from airbags to highway driving systems.  The most advanced driver assistance systems not only protect the car’s occupants from more serious injuries in the event of an accident, but can also help prevent accidents from happening. Recent data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) determined that up to 56% of rear-end collisions  could be avoided in vehicles equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Blind spot detection systems can reduce lane-change crashes by as much as 23%. These are significant reductions in collisions that have real world implications.  Cars that help drive themselves and drive more safely than humans are cool, right?”

My daughter’s eyes had glazed over and I thought I had lost her, when she said, “yeah, but that Bug is cute.” So, perhaps I could change her definition of cool, but there was nothing I could do about cute.

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