Decades of safety research, regulation and innovation have helped to make automobiles safer today than ever. Despite rapid advances in technology, we must still face the reality that motor vehicle crashes resulting in injuries and sometimes fatalities happen every day in St. Louis.

Though automakers tout new safety features in their vehicles each year, consumers often overlook one important aspect of staying safe when driving around town in a new car, pick-up or SUV: the newness of the vehicle can itself hinder your ability to avoid accidents.

According to new research by an insurer, drivers in new vehicles are 21 percent more likely to be in a crash than those behind the wheel of an older, more familiar vehicle. Familiarity is key: new-car drivers often don’t have the same confidence in or understanding of how a new vehicle’s brakes or acceleration will respond in critical moments. Drivers of new vehicles are also less familiar with the size of their shiny new car.

A spokesperson for the insurer said, “Whether you have a brand-new car or even one that’s new to you, adjusting to the different size and dimensions of the vehicle can take some time.”

Most of the new-vehicle accidents due to unfamiliarity are thankfully minor: low-speed parking lot collisions and that sort of thing. But among the top types of crashes in new vehicles is an item to be aware of and guard against: rear-end collisions.

Drivers of new vehicles can hit those unfamiliar brakes too hard and wind up being struck from behind by a vehicle, or conversely not apply the brakes hard enough and wind up striking a vehicle ahead.

Experts recommend taking it slowly with a new vehicle. Drive especially cautiously in those first days to learn its dimensions and responsiveness of brakes and acceleration.

Motorists who are injured in a crash caused by another driver’s negligence should speak to an attorney devoted to getting maximum compensation for all damages.