Cars today come with more standard safety features than you can shake a stick (shift) at. But a simple $15 tool could be the thing that saves your life in an accident. And a dash cam might just prove who caused — and didn’t cause — a crash.

These five after-market gadgets could be a driver’s best friend.

Related: How to Make Your Next Car Safer

lifehammerLifeHammer: The Original Auto Escape Tool

In the aftermath of an accident, becoming trapped in your vehicle (possibly while it’s sinking or about to catch on fire) is a very real hazard. For times when moments matter, LifeHammer is a dual-purpose tool that breaks glass and cuts through seatbelts. It’s a small, low-tech device made from heavy-duty plastic, with pointed metal tips and a safety blade. You can easily fit it into your glove compartment. (Photo: Autogeek/LifeHammer)

Cost: $15 from Amazon

Garmin Dash Cam 10 Standalone Driving Recorder

Garmin Dash Cam 10Footage from a dashboard camera, or “dash cam,” can prove fault in a collision, capture the perpetrator of a hit-and-run and provide eyewitness evidence in conflicts like road rage episodes and insurance scams. There are many different models, so look for a reliable one with ample storage, a convenient power source and sufficient resolution.

The Garmin Dash Cam 10 covers these bases and offers a few additional perks, including a wide-angle lens, optional audio recording and built-in Incident Detection, which protects against loss of your most crucial data. It does not require a smartphone or computer access for activation or playback, though video can be transferred to your computer for easy viewing.  (Photo: Garmin /Garmin)

Cost: $219.99

Related: Personal Safety Alarms: High-Tech Help When You Need It

FOBO Tire Pressure Monitoring System

fobo tireImproperly inflated tires cause decreased gas mileage, traction loss, poor handling and compromised braking. Unmaintained tires can fail, leading to a serious accident. Auto professionals recommend checking tire pressure at least seasonally, and always before long trips, but this precaution is easy to overlook.

FOBO is a tire pressure monitoring system that trumps any dashboard indicator light. It’s a clean, hands-off alternative to an old-fashioned tire gauge. Each kit includes a set of four tire sensors, a small in-car unit and anti-theft nuts. FOBO works by communicating with your smartphone via Bluetooth; when tire pressure is off, it sends an alert to your phone.

The installation is simple enough, though you must download a fee app on your Android or iOS device to activate the system. After that, FOBO will send alerts to your in-car unit should your phone be forgotten, lost or off. Information is easily shared and managed through the app, so you can expand the system to cover several cars and drivers.  (Photo: Indiegogo/Fobo Tire)

Cost: $179

Esky Car Parking Reverse Backup Radar System with Backlit LED Display

If your car doesn’t have a backup camera, this inexpensive alternative may be the next best thing.

Esky Parking Sensor

Although it doesn't show you a video feed of what's behind you, it does in a sense give you eyes in the back of your head. With the help of integrated radar, the display shows colored warning lights to indicate how far away from objects you are. The system also emits audible alerts that get louder and faster as you get closer to an object. It could help you avoid embarrassment, property damage and even injuries. 

The Esky kit contains four parking sensors, a main control box, an LED display, a power cable and mounting materials. Installation requires some auto/electrical knowledge, especially for low-profile results. (Photo:

Cost: $16.99

Related: Can’t Stop Texting While Driving? This Device Is for You

Custom Accessories Stick-On Blind Spot Mirror

From the time we learn to drive, we are taught to check the infamous “blind spot” that standard rear-view mirrors fail to reflect.

Stick on mirrorIn recent years, auto companies started making cars with factory-installed detection and alert features to reduce the risk of blind-spot related accidents. But these features have had a lukewarm reception. Effectiveness and reliability varies, and drivers unaware of these limitations may be endangered by a false sense of security. Furthermore, the flashing and/or audible alerts are often described as annoying, thereby increasing the potential for distracted driving.

A stick-on wide-angle mirror is a dirt cheap effective option and takes seconds to install. Stick it to one or both of your side mirrors. It dramatically increases the angle of vision so you can easily check your blind spot without craning your neck. They’re effective on any vehicle, from utility vans and trucks to compact cars and motorcycles. Just be sure to choose the right size, shape and placement for best results. (Photo: Custom Accessories /Custom Accessories)

Cost: $3 - $5 each

Michael Franco is a science and technology writer who secretly wishes he was an astronaut. His work has appeared in CNET, and Discover Magazine.