Car safety features don’t eliminate the need to be an alert driver. But they can play a big role in helping to prevent car crashes and in lessening their severity.

Automakers use advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to help keep drivers from making errors and to minimize the effects of mistakes. These systems go by different names based on the automaker, but it’s important to understand how they work so that you can make an informed decision when purchasing a car.

5 common ADAS features

Adaptive cruise control automatically operates a car’s acceleration and braking to keep a continuous safe distance between your car and the one in front of it. If the traffic in front of you stops, many adaptive cruise control systems bring your car to a complete stop.

Automatic emergency braking applies your brakes if a collision is imminent, either slowing or completely stopping your car. Some vehicles also offer reverse automatic emergency braking (to help avoid a crash when backing up). Others offer forward collision warning, which uses audible, visual and tactile cues to let you know of an impending crash with a car in front of you—but it doesn’t apply the brakes.

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Blind spot warning alerts you to cars in the blind spots on either side of your vehicle. A small icon—typically in the side-view mirrors—lights up to indicate that it’s unsafe to make a lane change. If you activate your turn signal when a vehicle is in your blind spot, the car safety symbol in the mirror flashes to caution against a lane change and sometimes sounds a warning tone.

Driver-monitoring systems keep track of eye and head movements and driving behavior that indicate you might be drowsy or distracted. If the system senses a problem, it issues a visual and/or audible alert, reminding you to pull over and rest.

Lane departure warning detects painted lines and raised pavement markers to help you stay in your lane. If you drift out of your lane, a beeping sound, flashing icon and/or vibration in the steering wheel will alert you. The car safety warning won’t sound when you have your turn signal activated. Going one step further, lane-keeping assistance detects when you drift out of your lane and gently guides your car back. (It won’t continue to drive your car.)

5 less common ADAS features

Active driving assistance controls a vehicle’s steering, acceleration, and braking and sometimes keeps a vehicle in the center of the lane. It’s not the same as self-driving: You must supervise the feature and still be responsible for driving.

Active parking assistance locates a suitable parking spot and executes many of the steering, shifting, accelerating and braking functions needed to park a car, in some cases with the driver outside the vehicle (called remote parking assistance). The car safety system also helps drivers exit from tight parallel parking spots.

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Crossroads/intersection warning heads off possible collisions by stopping your vehicle when a car pulls into its path from a side road or intersection.

Rear-seat reminder alerts you to a possible child or pet in your vehicle’s backseats. The system issues an audible alert and/or sends a message to your phone. Rear-seat reminders will be standard in U.S. vehicles by 2025.

Traffic sign recognition reads speed-limit signs, stop signs, do-not-enter signs, and yield signs and projects the information onto a head-up display or the center console touch screen.

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*Between 1/1/20 and 12/31/20, the average savings off MSRP experienced by consumers who connected with a TrueCar Certified Dealer through the AAA Auto Buying Program and who were identified as buying a new vehicle from that Certified Dealer was $3,197. Your actual savings may vary based on multiple factors, including the vehicle you select, region, dealer and applicable vehicle-specific manufacturer incentives, which are subject to change. The MSRP is determined by the manufacturer and may not reflect the price at which vehicles are generally sold in the dealer’s trade area, as many vehicles are sold below MSRP. Each dealer sets its own pricing.

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