Heres a look at some of the safety features your next vehicle should have or that you can install on the wheels youre driving today.

Side-impact air bags (SAB) are designed to protect your head and chest during a side-impact crash.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) helps you keep control of your car when youre driving on slippery roads or doing  “extreme steering maneuvers” (curves, ice, sudden braking). The ESC senses when a vehicle is starting to lose control and applies the brakes to individual wheels to help turn the vehicle.

An on-and-off switch for air bags lets you disable the system when it could be dangerous—when youre traveling with a child under 12, a rear-facing infant carrier, or a frail passenger, for example.

Tire-pressure-monitoring systems (TPMS) come standard in all vehicles built after September 2007. Represented by a dashboard warning light, the TPMS lets drivers know if tire pressure is too low. Underfilled tires are involved in 20 percent of flat-tire and blowout cases that result in a crash.

A backup sensor lets you see behind your car. If yours doesnt have one and you have young children, consider having an after-market product installed. Go to and search for “auto backup systems” to find out about current options.

A global positional system (GPS) will become as indispensable as your cell phone if youre cursed with a poor sense of direction, travel in unfamiliar cities a lot, or just like to know where you are at all times. Its optional equipment in most new cars, but you can also buy an add-on system such as Garmin.