Sizing up safety features is a key component of the Consumer Reports testing program. These days, testers are evaluating a lot of new ones. Nissan has come up with an expanded notion of a rear-view camera. It offers 360-degree visibility so you can see all around the vehicle. "These systems can prove really beneficial in tight quarters and especially if you have kids that might be around your car, because they give you a double check of your surroundings. The key to using them, though, is you have to kind of train yourself to look at the monitors."
Another new safety feature Consumer Reports likes - a blind-spot alert system that lights up when a vehicle is in your blind spot - so you know not to change lanes. But some other safety features are not impressing testers. Jennifer Stockburger, "Pre-crash warning systems, what they do is alert you if you're approaching a vehicle ahead of you or something in front of you. What testers found, though, is that they were a bit overly sensitive, and they were going off even in safe, normal driving conditions." Consumer Reports says far better are automatic braking systems like Volvo's City Safety. It can stop your vehicle if you get too close to something in front of you. "Lane departure" is another new feature - designed to signal if you've drifted out of your lane. But testers found it also can be too sensitive. Jennifer Stockburger, "We found that they gave too many warnings when you were driving on secondary roads, where you cross and approach the center line more often." Of course, while some of these safety features are a plus, none is meant to take the place of keeping your eyes on the road. "