Over the last decades, car safety has seen remarkable gains driven by a number of influences — from advances in technology up to environmental changes. It is now in an era where the focus has shifted from reducing death and injury in a vehicle collision to preventing a crash from happening in the first place.

With a dizzying array of options, packages, and accessories to choose from in the market today, it is still important to put safety features at the top of priority list. Undoubtedly, car safety features have reduced the occurrence of vehicle accidents and its consequences.

According to Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the leading independent vehicle safety advocate in Australasia, the combination of a sound structure, good restraint systems and active safety assist technologies provide the best chance of survival in a crash.

ANCAP said on its Web site that the safety of a car and its passengers is based around three aspects: the structural integrity, passive safety features, and safety assist technologies.

Structural integrity refers to how the shell of a vehicle withstands and channels crash forces away from occupants, while the passive safety features are the vehicle’s built-in safety features, such as air bags, anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control, seat belts and seat belt pre-tensioners, which help prevent or manage the forces of impact.

The safety assist technologies, on the other hand, are the semi-autonomous and autonomous safety technologies which assist the driver in avoiding or reducing the severity of a crash. These include blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, active lane-keeping assist and intelligent speed adaptation.

Experts from Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization providing unbiased product ratings and reviews, have assembled a list of key features to consider when buying a vehicle. These include automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot warning or alert, rear cross-traffic warning and lane-keeping assist.

According to howsafeisyourcar.com, a Web site that provides independent safety information on new and used cars based on laboratory crash testing and real world crash data, auto emergency braking is a feature that alerts a driver to an imminent crash and helps them use the maximum braking capacity of the car. It will independently brake if the situation becomes critical and no human response is made.

Auto emergency braking comes in three categories: low speed system, which works on city streets to detect other vehicles in front of your car to prevent crashes and non-life threatening injuries such as whiplash; higher speed system that scans up to 200 meters ahead using long range radar at higher speeds; and pedestrian system, which detects pedestrian movement in relation to the path of the vehicle to determine the risk of collision.

The second must-have car safety feature on Consumer Report’s list is the forward collision warning. It is a vehicle safety technology that has the potential to prevent a crash or reduce the impact speed of a crash, alerting the driver to an imminent crash so they can begin to take preventative action, howsafeisyourcar.com says.

Blind spot warning or alert is also a big help, giving notification if a vehicle is at the car’s flanks, where the driver may not be able to see it easily.

“The warnings administered range across different technologies and can be visual, audible and/or tactile to alert the driver that it is unsafe to change lanes,” howsafeisyourcar.com says.

Rear cross-traffic warning, on the other hand, notifies the driver that an object or vehicle out of rear-camera range could be moving into the car’s path.

“The rear cross-traffic warning systems give visual, audible, and/or tactile notification of an object or vehicle that is out of rear-camera range but is approaching as you’re backing up. Some systems will automatically brake to avoid a crash,” the Consumer Reports says in a separate post.

Finally, lane-keeping assist shouldn’t be forgotten. This safety feature provides corrective steering input or braking when the car crosses lane markings without the driver activating the turn signal.

Howsafeisyourcar.com explains that lane-keeping assist proactively steers the car back into the lane. “When the car is close to a marking, the system gently steers the car away from the line until it is safely within the lane. The system can steer the car either by applying gentle braking to one wheel, or in the case of electric steering systems, by applying a direct steering input,” the Web site says.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports also identified car features every car buyer can skip.

One of which is bigger wheels. The organization explains that larger wheels often result in a stiffer, less comfortable ride and can be more expensive to replace when damaged.

Consumer can also consider skipping feature like built-in navigation systems, Consumer Reports said, noting that: “They are typically costly. Instead, use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allow drivers to tap into smartphone mapping apps directly.” — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino