Click here to View Our Other Publication
Drive Life : November 19th 2010
1HERSA1 0009 DESIGNED TO CLEAN FOR BETTER PERFORMANCE Unlike regular fuel, Caltex Vortex premium fuels are designed to clean your engine while you drive, to give you more power, better acceleration and increased fuel economy. Upgrade to Caltex Vortex premium fuels today. CAL0140/T24 The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, November 19, 2010 9 DriveLIFE Meanwhile, the new Volvo S60, which will be available in Australia from next month, claims to be the first car to offer a pedestrian detection system (pictured, main and left). Using radar and a camera, the system alerts the driver to an imminent collision with a pedestrian. If there's no response from the driver, the S60 takes over and slams on the brakes. Volvo claims that at speeds up to 35km/h the system will avoid the accident, while at higher speeds it will reduce the impact. GO FASTER ''Speed kills'' is a mantra that is drummed into drivers from the moment they get behind the wheel. Which is why the safety chief for Mercedes-Benz, Ulrich Mellinghoff, created such a stir when he suggested on a recent visit to Australia that freeway speed limits should be raised to 140km/h. Mellinghoff believes if drivers on Australian freeways were allowed to drive faster, it would help combat driver fatigue. ''Maybe a top speed of 200km/h is not necessary but I think if you divided it [the traffic] a little bit on these very long distances you have to drive, it's better to drive at 130km/h or 140km/h, although in terms of drowsiness you still have to drive at 100km/h,'' he said. ''We in Germany have absolutely no problem with higher speeds. We've discussed it often and very often the discussion was that it was unsafe. But our statistics show this is not the case.'' Predictably, however, the rest of Mellinghoff's message was less widely reported. Mellinghoff says he believes Australian freeways are as good as those in Germany but was disappointed by the standard of driving he encountered here. If speed limits were to be lifted, there would have to be a corresponding improvement in driver education -- especially on high-speed roads -- and a greater commitment to passing only on the right. And while we could be safer driving faster on high-speed roads, suburban limits should be lowered to a maximum of 60km/h. BREATH-TEST EVERYONE The number of fatal and serious accidents involving alcohol has fallen steadily, mainly because of the introduction of random breath testing in 1982. However, drinking was still involved in 81 deaths in NSW last year. Grog has several effects on the driving brain -- all of them bad. And many of these impairments kick in before the NSW legal limit of .05 is reached. One effect is to make it difficult for a driver to divide his or her attention between two tasks. You might be driving down the freeway while trying to scan a sign to see how far you have to your exit. With a couple of drinks on board, that becomes increasingly difficult and if you add in a third element, such as a car braking heavily in front, the result can be disastrous. Reaction time is also slowed significantly by alcohol, dangerously increasing the time it takes to, say, choose between braking or swerving around an object and then carrying out the manoeuvre. Add in other factors, such as drowsiness, overconfidence and a reduced ability to judge speed and distance, and it's obvious why all the experts believe you shouldn't even have one drink and drive. ''People react differently to varying amounts anyway,'' says an NRMA vehicle safety expert, Jack Haley. ''The safest way is just not to drink before you drive and then you know you are not taking the risk.'' There is a call for the legal alcohol limit for be lowered to .02 for all drivers, not just professionals, but the chairman of road safety at the Injury Risk Management Research Centre at the University of NSW, Raphael Grzebieta, goes one step further. He believes all cars should be fitted with an alcohol interlock device that disables the ignition if the driver has been drinking at all. ''We can do that today,'' he says. ''The driver is identified and blows into the device before the vehicle starts.'' Already, Volvo offers an alcohol lock on its European models and will be trialling the device in Australia next year. MAKE ROADS MORE FORGIVING Even the best drivers can get into trouble when exposed to badly designed, unforgiving roads (pictured below), according to a traffic and roads policy adviser for the NRMA, Mark Wolstenholme. ''There is a tendency to blame drivers for everything and, yes, sometimes they do the wrong thing but there are plenty of people who are sober, drug-free, responsible drivers obeying the speed limit and wearing seatbelts who die,'' he says. ''People will make mistakes and we need to make sure the road is designed so that if you do make a mistake, your chances of dying or getting seriously injured will be reduced.'' The practical measures Wolstenholme and many others are talking about include improved line markings that can be better seen at night and in the wet, barriers to separate traffic in two- lane roads, roadside poles that collapse on impact and wider lanes. ''As you start to narrow lanes, people are more likely to have a crash, whether that is a head-on or because they have run off the road,'' Wolstenholme says. In the European Union, the push for safer road design through groups such as the European Road Assessment Program (EuroRAP) is winning a lot of support, backed by the argument that better roads save money as well as lives. That argument is less advanced here but already the Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) has given star ratings to the national roads network, based on elements such as shoulder width and the presence of safety barriers. So far, no major road has scored the maximum five stars. Laser beams, bollards and spears Ploys . . . (from top) virtual pedestrians instead of traffic lights; childlike bollards. An economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Armen Alchian, suggested all cars should have a spear in the centre of the steering wheel pointed at the driver's heart. Tongue, one imagines, firmly in cheek, Alchian's point was that people responded to incentives and that making cars safer removed the incentive to drive carefully. Ensure the consequences of even a minor bingle are fatal, he said, and drivers had the most powerful incentive to be careful. Korean designer Hanyoung Lee came up with the idea of a ''virtual wall'' to stop drivers at intersections, replacing conventional traffic lights. The ''wall'' is made up of plasma laser beams, across which virtual pedestrians appear to be walking. This psychological barrier would be much more effective than a simple traffic light, Lee argued. In an effort to get drivers to slow down around one of its primary schools, a British local council erected metal, life-sized bollards in the shape of children by the side of the road. The designers said the bizarre bollards outside Avenue Primary School in Leicester could be used elsewhere if they proved a success. The Danish road safety council produced a spoof news story featuring topless female models carrying road signs. The ad, which raised the ire of feminists, was intended to reach young male drivers. The ad's makers said surveys showed, unsurprisingly, that it was popular with the target group.
November 12th 2010
November 26th 2010