Buying your first car, Part 1

Deciding on your first car based on safety features is fraught with danger. We explain why driver education is far more important than the type of car you choose.

Thursday, 16 November, 2017 by Roadcraft

Speaking to media earlier this year, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, advocated the need for younger people to drive the safest car possible.

Initially, this philosophy may appear correct based on statistics from 2013 that tell us:

  • Young drivers (17 - 25 years) represent one-quarter of all Australian road deaths, but are only 10-15% of the licensed driver population.
  • A 17 year old driver with a P1 licence is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver over 26 years.

So young drivers are grossly over-represented in the road toll, and we should be doing everything we can to get them into the safest car possible. Well, let’s have a more detailed look at what this all really means.

The problem with vehicle safety features

Every time a vehicle manufacturer finds it necessary to include new safety features and vehicle control techniques into modern vehicles, they’re really telling us how bad we are at driving. Think about it;

  • Do we really need a 'blind spot detection system' that uses a variety of sensors and cameras to provide a driver with information about objects that are outside their range of vision? A much better solution is to educate drivers to do shoulder checks to identify anyone or other obstacles in their blind spots zones.
  • Do we really need intelligent 'Anti-Lock Braking Systems' to help us stop safely and quickly? What’s wrong with educating drivers to be intelligent and drive to conditions, to never tailgate and leave more time and space around them to allow for safe braking?
  • Do we really need 'Traction Control' and 'Vehicle Stability Control' systems to help us maintain grip on slippery surfaces and provide greater control when cornering? At Roadcraft, we're educating drivers to observe, concentrate and anticipate, and or drive to the conditions. When vision, space and grip are compromised, REDUCE SPEED!
  • Do we really need a 'Pre-Collision Safety System' to detect an imminent crash and stop us from tailgating? This is an artificial intelligence system that takes precautions for the driver, including warning about an imminent crash as well as applying the brakes, which is essentially putting your safety into the hands of a computer. Instead, we're all about educating drivers to “hang back” at a safe following distance, and understanding the dire implications of choosing to tailgate (yes, it is a choice).
  • But wait there’s more – now there’s a 'Lane Departure Alert System' – a system that automatically determines if we are leaving the designated lane by providing two warnings. Yes, two; an audible and visible warning. Why don’t we just concentrate on the task of driving?
  • Finally, a camera mounted in the front of several modern vehicles, facing forward to detect oncoming vehicles at night, will automatically dip the your headlights and then re-engage high beam once the oncoming vehicle has passed.
What more proof do we need to demonstrate that:
  1. We actually are bad, inattentive and, dare I say it, complacent drivers (is it plausible that all these safety features may actually contribute to dangerous complacency?), and
  2. We really do need to be educated on how to become safer, more aware and attentive drivers.

"One of the great ironies of modern life is that the worst car you will ever drive is probably going to be your first car and that is when you are at the highest risk of having an accident," Mr Chester said.

What's the real challenge?

Are the features of the cars we drive really the problem? Is it really essential to have an expensive, modern car with all the 'bells and whistles' and 'safety features'? Is this the main element to reducing one’s risk of being involved in a serious or fatal road incident?

The answer to this question is no, and placing your trust in vehicle safety features may actually serve to make the un-educated driver more at risk, through complacency and lack of education on how all those safety features actually work.

Read Part 2: ANCAP Safety Ratings Explained

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