By Kristen Kreibich
For many small-business owners, shopping for a new work vehicle begins by creating a list of wants and needs. You may need a heavy-duty pickup truck to expand your landscaping business. You may want it in forest green to match the branding of the company. While capability, efficiency and even a particular paint color will be high on the list of must-haves, there is nothing more important than safety – your safety and that of your employees.
Fortunately, the auto industry as a whole has been hard at work developing innovative safety features that, until recently, were not just unavailable, but even unimaginable. From hands-free, voice-activated communication methods to automatic emergency braking, many new vehicles are equipped with powerful safety technology designed to help keep travel incident-free, or to mitigate the damage when a collision is imminent.
Not all of today’s available safety features come standard in every new car, truck and cargo van. With that in mind, here are some things to look for when selecting your next vehicle for work.
The proliferation of smart phones and in-vehicle WiFi has made it easier than ever for people, especially business people, to stay connected while away from the home or office. But that connectivity comes at a price. The temptation to check and respond to email and text messages while driving can have serious consequences if the driver takes their eyes off the road.
To lessen temptation, automakers have been equipping select vehicles with hands-free technology that lets drivers stay connected without losing focus on what matters most – driving. When paired to a smartphone via Bluetooth®, the vehicle’s infotainment system (when properly equipped) can read incoming texts and even transcribe via voice and send responses. The same hands-free technology is at play in the navigation system (again, when equipped), allowing drivers to input addresses or search for the nearest gas station by voice command alone.
Consult the salespeople at your local dealership to find out what kind of hands-free technology is now available in your favorite work vehicles.
Accident-Avoidance Technology and Back-Up Cameras
It can happen to the best of us – the mind wanders momentarily and the vehicle follows suit, meandering off course and into the next lane over, hopefully without consequence. To help prevent vehicles from drifting into the fast lane, or worse, oncoming traffic, automakers today are implementing technology that senses unintended lane departure and gives a subtle (or not so subtle) warning to get the driver back on track.
Not limited to lane departure, many new cars and trucks are equipped with sensors that can detect and help prevent potential forward collisions. In addition to sounding an alarm when in harm’s way, the vehicle may apply its brakes automatically, even bringing the vehicle to a full stop if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough.
To help deter collisions while going in reverse, a significant percentage of today’s vehicles come with rear-facing back-up cameras that switch on and off automatically. Further helping the driver maneuver are on-screen grid lines that bend to the right or left according to the steering wheel’s position.
Though each automaker offers slightly different versions of accident-avoidance technology, or calls it by a different name, all versions have the same intent: to help the driver arrive safely at their destination. Ask the salesperson at your preferred dealership which vehicles have the most-advanced collision prevention and warning systems available.
Safety Ratings, Rankings and Awards
To hear an automaker talk up the safety features of its vehicles is one thing. To hear favorable reports from a government oversight agency or some other unaffiliated organization is another thing entirely. Before stepping foot onto a new-car lot, prospective buyers should research their vehicle of interest on several third-party websites, then compare and contrast its ratings with similar vehicles in its class.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), for example, conducts its own crash tests and awards the highest-performing vehicles with IIHS Top Safety Pick or IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designations. Similar organizations work on a 5-star basis. Whatever the rating system, all will offer consumers a sound way to judge the overall safety of a particular vehicle, with a focus primarily on how the vehicle performs in a collision. Pair that with insight from the dealership sales team and an informed buyer will have no trouble selecting a work vehicle to fit his or her needs, from a perspective of safety or any other.
Kristen Kreibich has more than 20 years of manufacturing, regulatory and safety experience. FCA US LLC recently appointed her to fill its newly established position of Safety Advocate. View all 2016 Snow Safety week articles and content here.