Smart Motors: New safety features are making Madison drivers, passengers and pedestrians more protected than ever

MADISON, WISC – Ginger Blum, an employee with the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, is no stranger to what people have to say about the safety features that are equipped on many of today’s newer vehicles. But it wasn’t until a recent vacation to Orlando, she found out for herself just how powerful these life-saving technologies can potentially be.

“My 14-year old daughter and I had been planning a Disney vacation for a long time,” says Blum. “I wasn’t nervous about flying, but I knew once we landed we would need a car. I’d heard horror stories about Orlando traffic so the thought of driving in a foreign city alongside other clueless tourists had me a bit scared.”

Despite her trepidation, Blum did rent a car. She was told by the rental agent the car she was getting had “tons of safety features.” Blum assumed that meant anti-lock brakes, a car alarm and perhaps front and side airbags for both driver and passenger. She was in for a major surprise.

“I was shocked at what this car could do!” she says. “Just from our relatively short ride from the airport to the hotel, I first became aware of blind spot indicator lights in the side mirrors. Then at one point I accidently began to drift into another lane, but then I felt the steering wheel nudge me back into the center of my own lane! It was a little weird, but amazing.”

Another feature Blum encountered as she and her daughter made a day trip to the Gulf Coast was the dynamic cruise control, which adjusts the car’s speed to help the driver maintain a safe distance from the car in front of him or her.

“I know there were lots of other safety features that thankfully didn’t come in to play, but the ones that did made driving so much less stressful,” says Blum. “It made me want to immediately upgrade to a newer vehicle as soon as I got home.”

Justin Jackson, Sales Director at Smart Motors in Madison says he not only hears stories like Blum’s all the time, but on a regular basis he gets to witness people’s overwhelmed reactions when they test drive newer models.

“Almost all the new Toyotas we offer come equipped with ‘Toyota Safety Sense (TSS),’” he says. “TSS is a package of onboard safety features that are constantly running to keep drivers and their passengers as safe as possible while they’re on the road.”

TSS – as well as safety systems employed by other vehicle manufactures – includes features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, a lane departure alert, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, and road sign assist. All of these safety features and more now come standard not only on Toyotas but on newer vehicles from a wide array of manufactures.

“These advanced systems monitor driving conditions in amazing ways,” says Jackson. “It would be great if they never had to react to potentially dangerous stimuli, but let’s face it, we all have had our share of near-misses!”

Jackson says that a coworker recently learned first-hand just how well these new safety features work.

“My coworker’s wife was driving on the beltline, which is an exercise in defensive driving to begin with,” Jackson says. “He was riding shotgun. Suddenly a car weaved in front of them and the pre-collision system gave off an alert and the system kicked in to slow the car down to avoid a mishap. While the driver – prompted by the alert – applied the brakes quickly, the monitoring system actually beat her reaction time.”

Jackson says the blind spot monitoring mirrors have helped to avert many close calls, and is probably the most relied on safety feature. “They’re very prevalent in many makes and models. I hope very soon they become standard features because they truly prevent thousands of accidents.”

With nearly 10 percent of vehicle accidents being lane-changing crashes, blind spot monitoring mirrors can be a very useful tool. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that blind spot monitoring reduced lane-changing accidents by 14%. Moreover, it reduced injuries from lane-changing crashes by 23%.

While the entire safety system can be turned off, Jackson says using them as a precaution is the ideal option. While TSS and other manufacturers’ safety systems are definite assets to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, Jackson says, “drivers still need to rely on their own senses whenever they get behind the wheel.”

About Smart Motors

Smart Motors was founded in 1908 by O.D. Smart and is one of the nation’s oldest automotive dealerships, is the mid-west’s largest hybrid dealer and one of Wisconsin’s largest volume Toyota dealers. Located at 5901 Odana Road, Smart Motors is Wisconsin’s only two-time President’s Cabinet Award recipient from Toyota Motor Sales for superior customer service & sales volume.  For more information visit