Car safety technology has come a long way since Saab introduced the first standard seatbelt in 1958. Since then, many lives have been saved with the addition of safety features including anti-lock brakes, automatic fuel cutoff switches, side impact protection, front and side airbags, and child passenger restraint systems. Here are some examples of safety features found on new cars today.
Rear Cross-traffic Alert
The two most dangerous places to drive are going through an intersection and moving through a parking lot. You will undoubtedly be going much faster through an intersection than in a parking lot. Most of the time, you will be able to look ahead and spot the traffic at an intersection, although this is not always possible due to road work, big trucks around you, and other obstructions. And of course there is always the specter of someone running a red light, or performing what we call a “California stop,” which is basically a roll through the stop sign without coming to a full stop. Because of the speed involved, getting hit in an intersection is usually pretty serious, airbags notwithstanding. But we are aware of the danger and usually have our “antennae” up in this situation.
Not so when we are backing out of a parking spot. Modern cars, particularly SUVs and big pickups, have a big blind spot around the B and C pillars (the A pillar is the windshield; the B pillar is in back of the front door; and the C pillar is where the roof descends to the car body).
Sometimes, it is impossible to see the cars in back and around you, so people just reverse slowly and hope that nobody hits them. I have been guilty of this myself, because the previous owner applied very dark tinting to my back and side windows of my Lincoln LSC, and it is really hard to see out, particularly at night. Backing up without looking when other cars might also be backing up or are coming down the aisle is a dumb thing to do. The rear cross-traffic alert sends a signal to you that somebody is back there when you are backing up, and can save you big time. I give this an A rating.
Here’s one thing you need to remember about car safety technology. Car parts today are unbelievably expensive. Let’s look at three potential scenarios.
- First, a dented bumper. This will cost anywhere from $450 to repair to $900 to replace.
- Second most likely are deep paint scratches, which can cost anywhere from $50 to $1500 to fix.
- Third most likely is rear-end damage, which is difficult to calculate because it can run from a few hundred dollars for a repair to $10,000 for major frame damage.
Keep in mind that the average whiplash claim is $9,900 with rear-end crashes being the most common type. So getting hit in the parking lot is likely going to cost a couple of thousand dollars, and if you have a thousand dollar deductible, it is going to hurt your bank balance and your insurance rating.
Blind Spot Monitoring
New cars have monitors on both rear view mirrors that light up when a car is coming up next to you. I watch my mirrors constantly when I drive, and I never change lanes without looking over my shoulder, but I have to say that there are times when another driver is hiding out in your blind spot, or comes up very quickly out of nowhere, and this is very useful in those circumstances. I give this an A rating.
I am not so sure about automatic braking, but there are circumstances where it can be useful. For instance, one thing I just cannot get over when I am driving in Los Angeles is how many times the traffic on the freeway will go from 75 mph to zero in the space of a few hundred meters for no apparent reason and with no warning. This is really, really scary, and because there are so many huge SUVs on the road, it is impossible to see what is in front of you. In this case, automatic braking would be useful.
Forward Collision Alerts
This car safety technology uses a combination of radar and on-board cameras to look down the road and spot the pattern of what might be a blockage or crash. It does not apply the brakes, but it sends a signal to pay attention and stop texting or looking at your phone.
Adaptive Cruise Control
This one automatically adjusts the speed of your car to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. This might take a little getting used to, but judging from the tailgating and cutting in I see in my commute to work every day, it seems like an advantage.
How to Afford Car Safety Technology
All these new safety enhancements are a good thing, and they remind me of the safety enhancements that CrossCheck brings to the consumer when they are buying the car in the first place. Let’s look at the typical buying experience in a dealership for everyone except the upper quartile of the population that has a high credit score.
The car buying experience takes about four hours. It is exhausting and it wears you down. Surveys routinely show that consumers would rather have a root canal than go through this. Two people who go to the same dealer store and order identical cars will pay different prices based on their personal negotiating skills. This is the only product you buy where that is the case.
The dealer is going to try to sell you a car with the highest gross margin or pack add-ons to the purchase price such as gap insurance, paint protection or an extended warranty to get that margin. About 80 percent of the time, the dealer will arrange the financing and they will take a cut of the interest rate for the life of the loan. This results in consumers financing more car than they really want or need because they don’t have the cash now. The consumer is thinking, “Well, the bank wouldn’t approve this loan if they didn’t think I could afford it, and after all, they are the experts!”
New car dealers work with their factory lenders and they are very much aware of what is an acceptable loan package, and that defaults cannot go much beyond one percent. The factory lending arm does not knowingly put people in a bad situation with a loan. The dealer wants you to enjoy the car and tell your friends about it and come back in two or three years for another purchase. Sometimes the business of financing cars is better than the business of making them.
When you get to the point where you have to make a down payment, the dealer is not going to take a credit card. Why would they, when the two percent plus that they will pay to the card processor is equivalent to their gross margin on the deal? The dealer will ask you to write a check. And since the dealer has no way of knowing if the money is actually going to be in your account tomorrow to cover the check, they will use a CrossCheck guarantee program to make sure the deal sticks.
But what if the amount of the loan you are approved for is still short of what is due on signing? This happens a lot. Well, the dealer can try two different paths here. They can go to a non-factory lender who will charge a much higher interest rate, creating what is commonly referred to as a “debt trap.” This might happen more often with a non-franchise dealer or used car dealer.
Factory franchise dealers will use the CrossCheck Multiple Check program. They effectively ask the consumer, “If I gave you an extra 30 days to come up with the down payment, could you do that, so we can get complete this transaction and get you out of here with the car right now?”
In most cases, the consumer will happily agree to this, because it is so user friendly — the consumer doesn’t have to apply for credit or pay interest, and they don’t get caught in a debt trap!
The consumer is treated fairly and honestly, the CrossCheck way. You could almost say that CrossCheck supplies the “blind spot monitoring” and “forward collision alert” so that credit accidents are avoided and you have a safe ride home. This year CrossCheck will guarantee billions of dollars for thousands of car dealers so that the consumer will have a safe user experience and get off to a good start with a purchase that is loaded with car safety technology.