The vehicles we drive today are quite different from those of the “not so long ago past.”

Over the years, manufacturers have designed and implemented improvements, including many related to safety.

While cars, trucks and SUVs come in all different styles, colors and sizes, many of the features are included in the base price, which is also different than the past. I wanted to talk a little bit about vehicle safety features this week in preparation for next week’s column on the new “hands-free driving” law.

Some readers likely recall an era when no one used their safety belts. As the number of vehicles on the road increased, so did crashes and safety became a priority.

Car seats were improved for children of every size. Air bags were developed and installed; initially to protect the driver but later for every passenger as well.

Campaigns such as “The Back is Where it’s At” and “Click It or Ticket” were used to educate the public on the best seat for children and how safety belts work with air bags.

Computers not only became a fixture in our homes but were used to control braking, identify dangers and even park our cars. Smart cars have arrived and I’m guessing they will only be getting smarter.

Agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration worked with local police departments and insurance companies to identify factors related to crashes.

Equipment such as “back-up” cameras and sensor alarms were installed to make backing up easier. GPS units helped motorists find their way by reducing the need to juggle those bulky, printed road maps as you looked for the proper turn.

Motorists were also able to adjust the seats, windows and other features with one touch, reducing the distractions of driving. In many vehicles, you don’t even need to touch a button; simply tell the car what to do. Great radio stations like Cool 94.1 FM even stream without commercials, eliminating a need to channel surf.

Despite all the changes in equipment, technology and education, we still see the results of car crashes; too many injuries and sadly deaths.

Car crashes also carry a hefty financial burden for everyone, even nonmotorists. Although it may not be possible to completely eliminate crashes, it is possible to significantly reduce them.

Driver education, improved signage, better traffic controls, harsher consequences for bad drivers and road improvements are just a few.

Automobile manufacturers have helped make our roads safer with better equipment, but it takes every driver to do his or her part.

Someday, we’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride but until then, drivers need to focus on what’s ahead, around them and behind them on the road.

Tom Hanshaw retired last year from the Amesbury Police Department.

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