SafelyThere Stories

#SafelyThere Stories

As part of our campaign, we are collecting safety awareness stories. We hope that these personal narratives inspire you to share a time when automotive technology potentially saved your life, or the life of someone you love; or simply help you gain a better understanding of the technology's many benefits.

An (Almost) Spoiled Joyride 

© Continental AG
Travis Smith is a Senior Simulation Engineer, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

What started as a normal spring afternoon could have ended much worse. As I backed out of my driveway to run an errand, I was surprised when my vehicle began to beep and abruptly stopped. My heart raced as I realized what had happened – I was looking one way and a neighborhood kid had sped across my driveway on his bike from the other direction.  

I am grateful that my automatic emergency braking (AEB) kicked in just a second earlier than my own reaction – that one second could have changed everything. 

The boy was able to continue his joyride, and hopefully he will be more aware the next time he is crossing a vehicle’s path.  

Living in a suburban neighborhood, I am used to children playing outside in warm weather and I strive to remain aware of my surroundings. However, despite our best intentions, our awareness can be flawed. This experience reinforced my belief that advanced driver assistance systems do not replace the driver, but instead they assist when our own reflexes are not quick enough. 

According to IIHS, backover crashes account for approximately 15,000 injuries annually – meaning that stories like mine are very common. I am grateful that my vehicle has a backup camera and AEB, because I know that without it my near-crash would have contributed to this statistic.  

An Unlucky Cloverleaf 

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© Continental AG
Rahul Gujar is a Software Engineer for Corporate Quality and Environment, North America, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

I was driving home from work on a hot August day, and I began to merge from one highway to another during peak traffic. The M-59 and I-75 interchange in Michigan is notoriously busy during rush hour – the cloverleaf design is intended to alleviate congestion, but it can also be difficult to navigate. 

As I turned my blinker on and began to merge right, my blind spot detection system began to beep. I was confident that I hadn’t seen a car in the lane next to me, but due to the alert I looked again. A car was coming quickly from behind and was extremely close to my vehicle. The alert gave me just enough time to slow my car nearly to a stop, letting the other car continue to merge onto I-75.  

If installed on all vehicles, blind spot warning technology could potentially prevent 318,000 crashes a year, according to the AAA Foundation. I experienced a close call, but the warning gave me the moment I needed to react before a crash occurred. 

Bear-ly Stopped

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© Continental AG
Arnie Levitan works for Supplier Quality Management, Cluster Electronics, North America, based in Deer Park, Illinois. This is his #SafelyThere story. 

A few years back, my family and I took a quick trip to see a Bears game and as we were driving home, a sudden hard rain began. The car in front of us began to drift into another lane – where a semi-truck was also pressing through the weather. 

Their light collision triggered a jack knife reaction from the truck’s trailer. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I began to hit my brakes and, with the assistance of anti-lock braking, I was able to make a smooth stop on the shoulder. The vehicle behind me pulled over as well, unfortunately landing in the ditch to avoid another collision. 

After stopping safely, I was able to call 911 and check on the victims of the crash. We helped to direct traffic until the emergency responders arrived and took over. I am overwhelmingly grateful for my anti-lock braking system and proud that the company I work for helped to develop this technology.  

According to NHTSA, in 2017 there were 4,761 people killed in crashes involving large trucks – a 9% increase from 2016.  In fair conditions, fully loaded trucks can take over 500 feet to come to a complete stop. This experience enforced the importance of keeping a safe following distance when behind trucks, especially in bad weather. And, when the unexpected happens, I’m grateful for the vehicle technologies  that keep me – and those around me – safe on the road.  

Beep, Beep, Don’t Fall Asleep!

© Continental AG

Renu Aggarwal is a Product Development Chemist for ContiTech, based in Winchester, Virginia. This is her #SafelyThere story. 

My long-time friend and I were driving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a much-needed weekend of fun. After a long day in the car, it started to get dark outside and I could tell that something was different in the way my friend was driving. We started to weave, ever so slightly, in our lane. The lane departure warning would alert us every few minutes and I carefully offered to drive. My friend did not want to switch drivers. 

She suffers from sleep apnea, which inhibits her from sleeping soundly through the night. This condition puts her more at risk for falling asleep in other situations, like at work or behind the wheel. It is hard to tell somebody to pull over and even more difficult because she did not realize that her medical condition was impairing her driving.  

When the alert started going off more frequently, she finally decided it was time to pull over and switch. A few hours later, we arrived #SafelyThere. It was an amazing trip, eating local food and visiting the Speedwell Wolves sanctuary.  

I think most of us believe that our driving is safe, even when we are overtired or distracted. It is a difficult choice to pull over and take a nap, switch drivers, or respond to a text when the vehicle is no longer in motion. According to NHTSA, every year there are 100,000 crashes due to drowsy driving. I am grateful for the technologies that can alert drivers to risky behavior, but I will also do my part to choose not to get behind the wheel when I’m feeling anything less than attentive. 

Biscuit's Close Call

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© Continental AG
Kimberley Niec is an Executive Assistant for Continental Engineering Services, North America, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is her #SafelyThere story.  

My husband and I were visiting our friends in Austin, Texas and, as we were on our way to get lunch one day, my friend and I noticed a little white cockapoo running loose through the neighborhood. We could see that he was wearing a collar with tags, so he likely had a home nearby. We pulled our car over and jumped out to try to catch him. 

When we started to chase the dog, he thought that we were playing and ran off in a different direction. I was bent over chasing the dog across a driveway as a vehicle was backing out of the garage. The driver had no visibility of me or the dog, but thankfully, the vehicle had a backup camera and warning which alerted the driver to hit the brakes.  

According to an IIHS study, it can be expected that backup cameras can prevent nearly 1 in 6 backing crashes and we witnessed this statistic in action. The driver was very grateful that we were safe and happy to help assist with the catch. We finally got hold of the dog, who we learned was named Biscuit, and returned him to his home. After all the excitement of the chase, I’m glad to report that we reached a happy ending – thanks to advanced driver assistance technology! 

Drowsy Driving Deterred 

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© Continental AG
Daniel Mann is a Lead Assembly Setter for the Hydraulic Brake Systems business unit, North America, based in Fletcher, North Carolina. This is his #SafelyThere story.

My fiancée was driving home after a long day at work and she was struggling to keep her eyes open. She only works 15 minutes from home, so she tried to tough it out.

She nodded off and her lane departure warning system alerted her that she was entering the opposite lane as a vehicle approached. She started to react, but not fast enough – so the lane keeping assist system stepped in and made the correction for her. Shaken by the experience, she pulled over and took a few minutes to rest before starting back home.

Since then, we both take drowsy driving much more seriously. According to NHTSA, there are nearly 100,000 drowsy driving crashes reported in the U.S. every year. We do not want to be part of that statistic and we know now to take the time to rest before getting on the road. Additionally, this experience opened our eyes to the benefits of advanced driver assistance systems – moving forward, these features that act as a second set of eyes are a must-have for our cars.

From "Silver Bullet" to Safety

© Continental AG

Ally Brown is a Senior Employer Branding Specialist, U.S. and Canada, based in the Fort Mill, SC office. This is her #SafelyThere testimonial.​​​​​​​

In 2012, I went to trade in my 10-year-old vehicle - nicknamed "the silver bullet" for all my speeding tickets - and I was told by one dealership "that thing belongs in a junk yard." He made a fair point, years of city driving in Washington, D.C. took a beating on my car. The front bumper was falling off, the whole side was scratched and scuffed with yellow paint from hitting a column in a parking garage, and the interior smelled like a box of crayons.

Less than a year driving in my new grown-up car, I was on the beltway in someone's blind spot and was hit by a vehicle without Blind Spot Detection. My car flew across four lanes and into the shoulder. Everything happened so quickly, but luckily, I survived. Afterwards I was terrified to drive, especially when in another car’s blind spot.

Several years later, after moving to the suburbs and starting a family, I now spend more time driving and safety is even more important to me – my speeding days are long gone. When purchasing our family car, we opted for the special edition with all the safety features.

My Blind Spot Detection system and backup camera have helped me significantly, not only helping me to stay out of the body shop but also helping me to feel safer knowing that I have an extra set of eyes looking out for me and my family. I also feel a sense of relief when Blind Spot Detection is activated on other vehicles, knowing that this could have helped to prevent my car accident.

While my reputation as a driver is not squeaky clean, the automated safety features on my new vehicle have given me the confidence I need as I drive our young kids. I’m proud to say I haven’t made a single scratch on my car since that accident and I am grateful that I haven’t been hit again.

Stability Control Meets Snow-Covered Roads

© Continental AG
Vince Mastrangelo is head of Corporate Quality and Environment, North America, based in Auburn Hills, MI. This is his #SafelyThere story.

I started at Continental in 1999 in Finance working on the pricing strategies of the first Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Roll Stability Control (RSC) programs in North America. A few years later, my brother and his family moved to Oregon, and he asked for my opinion about which vehicle he should buy for the Pacific Northwest winters. Given my knowledge of various safety technologies, I recommended to him the sport utility vehicles that were equipped with ESC and RSC at the time. This was a pretty short list in 2003! Keep in mind that ESC has been mandatory in new cars in the United States only since the 2012 model year.

We quickly came to realize that this was the right decision. When my family later visited Oregon to celebrate New Year’s Eve, my wife and sister-in-law avoided a potentially severe accident thanks to ESC technology. They hit a patch of ice while driving down a snow-covered mountain road and felt the vehicle start to fishtail. While the car could have slipped into oncoming traffic or spun into a ditch, the ESC system kicked in and almost immediately put the vehicle back on course.

This experience changed both of our families' perspective of what we look for in a vehicle; we are now early adopters of new safety technology.

It is impressive to see the evolution of such technology since the implementation of ESC nearly two decades ago. I am sure this trend will continue as older cars are taken out of service and replaced with newer ones. It will accelerate even faster as drivers become more familiar with available technologies and their potential to reduce accidents and help save lives.

After Vince experienced firsthand the capabilities of ESC, he wanted to help promote the benefits of the technology. Together with his family, Continental created a testimonial video in 2004. This generated a lot of press coverage, including an article in the LA Times and a segment on CBS’ The Early Show. ​​​​​​​