Approximately 40,000 lives are lost in traffic accidents in the United States each year, and another five million people are injured. Further, 30 percent of deaths occur within minutes of a crash and 50 percent occur before the patient arrives at the hospital. In light of these alarming numbers, what should consumers expect when it comes to automotive safety? Engineers and designers at Ford Motor Co. say they are developing innovative solutions and technologies aimed at improving driver and passenger safety. Ford unveiled its latest safety features during the 2002 International Auto Show in Detroit, Jan. 6-8. Some enhancements that were exhibited this year include: SUV Safety Feature: A new feature in vehicle stability aide systems will also help a driver keep a vehicle from avoiding some rollovers. The technology literally helps keep the tires on the ground.

SUV Interior Industry Firsts: The newest edition of the Ford Expedition introduces several new features that include a slide-forward middle seat that enables parents to reach a child by sliding the second row middle seat forward a full 11 inches. In addition, the 2003 Expedition takes third row seating to a whole new level with seats that fold flat on the floor and are power-activated by buttons located at the right rear of the cargo area, freeing up cargo space.

Rescue Technology: Ford is also using technology to help medical personnel arrive at the scene of an accident faster and better prepared. The technology uses a series of sensors to provide detailed accident information on a vehicles position, direction of travel, position it came to rest, occupancy, belt usage and more. Ford's new Rescue System constantly monitors g-forces from three directions, and activates itself in response to extreme changes that take place during an accident.

Beltminder: Ever forget to buckle your seat? Or think you've buckled it only to find out that you did not? Beltminder provides a friendly reminder even after initial belt warning stops chiming. The system is activated either when the engine is started or when a car or truck moves a mere 3 mph. If the driver remains unbuckled, Beltminder sounds a chime while flashing a warning light on the instrument panel. When the driver fastens his or her seat belt, the system is deactivated.

Adaptable Air Bag Technology: The Personal Safety System uses a series of sensors that actually "think" through an accident-determining, for instance, how much force an air bag should exert when it inflates, and the level of tension a seat belt employs to restrain passengers in a frontal collision. For future applications, Ford is developing technology that can monitor with split-second precision, 1) crash severity, 2) proper front seat belt use, 3) how close the driver is to the steering wheel, and 4) the passenger's size and weight, and instruct the vehicle's safety features to adjust and respond instantly.

A concept engine and transmission that, according to Ford, signal the future of medium-duty truck powertrains is making its debut on Ford's Mighty F-350 TONKA concept truck. The Power Stroke Super-600 diesel engine and PowerTorq Transmission also include an experimental system called Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA).

The HLA system recovers energy normally lost during deceleration, stores it as hydraulic pressure and then reuses it during acceleration, improving fuel economy in large trucks in city driving by 25 - 35 percent.

The Mighty F-350 TONKA sports a "kneeling" function to ease entry and exit and assists in loading the truck bed. As the doors are opened an air suspension system lowers the truck five inches while running boards are deployed, it reverts to its raised position once the doors are closed.

A camera-operated lane departure warning system helps keep the driver alert by emitting an audible signal if the vehicle unintentionally drifts outside a lane.

Also debuting on the Mighty F-350 TONKA are Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) in headlamp application. This advanced lighting technology can deliver better-distributed illumination on the road than conventional halogen lights, as well as providing a means to reduce electrical power and emissions.