"Safety first" has always been my motto, except that one time when I jumped off that steep hill into a shallow creek and that other time I took a solo hike into the Tennessee woods to look for a bear. I was 10. Big deal. Other than that I've consistently valued safety and self-preservation highly.

Mitsubishi's recent ad campaign for the Outlander has focused on safety upgrades. The two most visible new features are the Forward Collision Mitigation System (FCM) and Lane Departure Warning System (LDW). One of them has integrated into my driving habits nicely, while the other grates on my nerves.

Let's get the negative out of the way first and talk about lane departures and when they should be brought to my attention. Using a camera mounted near the rearview mirror, the vehicle is able to sense when I'm drifting and about to leave my lane. There are a whole host of variables that keep the system from mistaking a normal lane change for a runaway vehicle (speed, unclear markers, dirty windshield, etc.) and it's been really good about that. However, each morning, 5 minutes into my commute, I turn the system off. The twisty Arroyo Seco makes it nearly impossible to travel without the annoying beep. Aside from my twisty-road annoyance I do wonder about the usefulness of this system. Is it strictly for drowsy drivers who start to drift? Is it for those who are busy doing things other than driving, like texting? Is it technology being put in place now to facilitate automated cars later? So far my experience is that it's not helpful. If I could disable the function permanently I would, but alas, it turns on automatically every time the car is restarted.

I have yet to master driving the historic Arroyo Seco without setting off the lane departure warning beep. Game over.

While the LDW does little more than annoy me, the Forward Collision Mitigation System is an excellent feature that has saved me from slamming on the brakes more than once in the dreaded stop-go traffic that plagues L.A. The FCM uses radar to judge the distance and relative speed of a vehicle in front of you and beeps a warning (and flashes BRAKE on the Multi-Information Display ) when a collision appears likely given the Outlander's current speed. It gives me enough time to realize the traffic, which just started moving so nicely, is coming to an abrupt halt ahead of me. So far, the FCM's warnings have been enough to get my attention, but if the driver does not respond to the alerts, the system will gently apply the brake as a warning, and after that, if it deems a collision is unavoidable, apply full emergency braking.

Yikes. Imagine that scenario. I hope imagining is all I'll have to do, as I don't want to find out first hand how well the engineers at Mitsubishi have designed this system. So far it is working just fine.

Another safety feature I found myself using the other day was the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). While barreling down the 110 on my way to work I ran over some kind of object that I didn't see, but it sure made an unholy noise and thump. Directly after the impact I monitored the Information Display for what I expected to be the warning of a rapid loss of air pressure in the passenger front tire. The alert never came. I was relieved and wondered how much longer I would have worried if the vehicle wasn't being vigilant. Later, a visual inspection revealed no damage to the tire.