Shopping for a new car can be a lot of fun, especially if it has been a while since you’ve upgraded. Technology has improved tremendously over the last decade, both for user-friendliness and safety features. Carefully examining your new car’s safety features will help reduce your chances of an accident and protect you during a car accident.

Knowing more about what safety features are essential and which ones are just “bells and whistles” can help you make an informed decision during the car buying process. 

These are the top five features that you should make sure your next car has.

1. Airbags

Airbags are almost standard in all cars now, but newer vehicles have side airbags in addition to the two for the driver and front passenger. These deploy on impact in a crash and protect those inside from hitting their heads or faces on the harder surfaces of the car’s interior. 

While you’d be hard-pressed to find a car without airbags right now, some older models may have had airbag recalls. You can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for recalls of airbags or other parts and cars.

Look for safety features that turn the airbags off if a child is riding in the front seat, as airbags can be quite dangerous for children who are not riding in the back seat.

2. Adaptive Headlights

Adaptive headlights protect you and other drivers. They respond according to your elevation, giving you better visibility when driving at night. Adaptive headlights also feature glare reduction for oncoming drivers, which can decrease your risk of a head-on collision. 

These headlights also make you and your position on the road easier for other drivers to see, making a crash less likely.

3. Anti-Lock Brakes

Like airbags, anti-lock brake systems (ABS) are another near-universal safety feature for newer cars. This feature prevents the vehicle’s wheels from locking when you slam on the brakes. 

Locked wheels can cause you to spin out on a slick surface, making it hard to gain purchase on the road and control the vehicle. The ABS includes sensors on each wheel that pulse the braking system during hard braking to prevent the wheels from locking, giving the driver better control.

4. Traction Control

Coupled with ABS, traction control enhances your ability to stay on course in wet or icy road conditions. This electronic control system limits how much the wheels spin when you accelerate, giving you greater traction and reducing the chances of spinning out. 

Usually, the traction control system syncs with the anti-lock brake system to route power to the opposite wheel for better control.

5. Electronic Stability Control

Since 2012, cars have been equipped with electronic stability control, a feature that uses sensors to reduce skidding and sliding. The system detects sideways motion and wind speed, steering angle, and the rotation of the wheels. 

If you drift outside of your intended path, the system applies brakes to one or more of the wheels to help improve stability. 

When car shopping, bear in mind that each car manufacturer may have a proprietary name for their systems, such as AdvanceTrac by Ford or StabiliTrak by GMC. If you aren’t sure if a car you’re looking at has this feature, ask what the manufacturer’s name for it is.

Even with the best safety features, accidents can still happen. You can reduce your chances of an accident by looking for important safety features on your new car and driving defensively.