My car does what?

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Until recently, I fancied myself a hip creative/musician type. At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when, I began the slow, inevitable slide toward middle age and everything that comes with it:

  • Family – check
  • Two-car garage – check
  • Aging body against which I harbor a growing list of grievances – double-check

Today, I am the cliché I used to snicker at. My 40-something-year-old boring guy resume has been spotless for years, save for one glaring omission. I’m happy to report I recently remedied that.

Last week, my wife and I received a well-timed tax return. We celebrated our modest windfall by purchasing….wait for it…a minivan.

I haven’t bought a new vehicle in years, but the experience hasn’t changed much.

It starts with a promise that goes something like, “We’ll get you out of here in no time.” And it ends five hours later, when you leave the dealership with a belly-full of “complementary” coffee and an even heavier financial obligation.

While the process of purchasing a vehicle hasn’t changed, the act of operating one certainly has. Driving is no longer a one-way task that relies on old-fashioned human know-how. Technology is transforming it into an automated process that removes us and our shortcomings from the equation.

For example, my van is equipped with a camera that activates when I shift into reverse, showing me whether other vehicles or people are behind me.


This infographic explains how to get the most out of your car’s backing assist feature.

When I hit my right-hand turn signal, a camera activates to show me what’s in my blind spot.

If I stray outside my lane or approach traffic in front of me too quickly, the system notifies me. In fact, it borders on chastising me.

All these bells and whistles take some getting used to, especially for “mature” drivers.

My wife admits that she almost backed over a pedestrian during her first week in the new vehicle. She was exclusively relying on the back-up camera to navigate safely out of a parking spot. Unfortunately, the pedestrian had not quite made it into the camera’s field of vision. My wife looked up just in time to avoid an accident.

So it seems technology is a complement to, not a substitute for, safe driving practices. Let’s take a few minutes to dust off those best practices for our own safety and the safety of everyone we share the road with.

Buckle up
Wear your seat belt, even if you’re just going “up the street,” and make sure passengers do the same. In a crash, everything becomes a flying object that can harm you. Your seat belt is the one thing that can save you.

Avoid distractions
You probably think you can multitask with the best of them. You’re probably wrong. Cell phones are the low-hanging fruit when talk turns to distractions. But remember that eating, grooming, adjusting your GPS and tapping along to the radio also take your hands, eyes and mind off driving.

In this 60-second video, Texas Mutual’s Woody Hill explains the hazards associated with distracted driving.

Control your speed
The law allows you to drive up to 80 miles per hour on toll roads, but that doesn’t mean you should. Slow down when roads are slick, visibility is poor or you are hauling heavy, awkward loads.

Stay alert
If you’re blinking, your eyes are burning or you’re having trouble concentrating, find a safe place to pull over and rest.

Keep your cool
Can you think of anything you do better when you’re angry? Probably not. Driving is no exception. Keep your cool if someone cuts you off, and give aggressive drivers plenty of space.

My car does what?
Safety-related bells and whistles are becoming standard features on new vehicles. If all that technology has you scratching your head, the National Safety Council can help. Visit to learn about your vehicle’s safety features, test your knowledge with interactive games and watch short instructional videos.


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