Road safety starts with car safety
Fiv Antoniou sets down some basic car-care rules
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the dangers faced on the roads and that driver education was the best solution to reducing our road toll.
There was another underlying message in the type of car best equipped to assist in the survival rate if things went pear-shaped.
Usually young drivers score their first ride in either someone's second or third hand used car or drive old family hand-me-downs which overall are not the safest vehicles available.
Compulsory annual roadworthy tests before registration can force unsafe older cars off the road while, in some Australian states that don't have that law, inevitably allow barely roadworthy vehicles registered use our roads until they clap out altogether or meet their end in accidents costing precious lives.
Young inexperienced drivers require all the assistance they can receive in their first months of unsupervised driving and therefore will fare better in modern cars rather than old hand-me-down rides without ABS (anti-brake lock), traction control or vehicle stability control.
Parents have a lot to answer for, as the usual thinking is, "I'm not letting junior drive a new car they may have an accident in, besides when they gain experience they can buy what they want" - Really! How much is a life worth?
For example an older car to 15 years old, if not fastidiously maintained with very low kilometres will have serious defects.
Rust in doors, door wells, boot and sub-frame structure, worn tyres, thinning or cracked disc rotors, cheap brake pads, old brake fluid, worn joints, bushes, shockers and suspension, leaking seals, gaskets and deteriorating wheel alignment.
Even a well looked after car can harbour serious drive train and handling defects.
In the event of a driving emergency any one of these components can cause an accident with dire consequences even for the most experienced drivers.
Imagine what the result may be in the hands of a novice without proper driver education.
Recently, the German Government stimulated their economy by giving a substantial grant if owners got rid of their old cars and bought new ones.
Generally speaking one does not see young drivers in heavily modified speed machines or old smoking rust buckets driving the roads of Europe because the drivers are more thoroughly educated in vehicle safety than our young drivers here.
In fact, Germany's young driver fatalities are around 400 percent lower than ours and they drive at higher speed limits than us.
Given that we are not going to change our driving habits overnight, the next best thing to do is to educate our drivers on safety warning signs and hope that regular vehicle maintenance and a little common sense may save a few lives.
Tyres and brakes are the single most important safety component of any new or old car.
As we motor over time, a car's tyres and brake pads wear out and although we may not notice, the changes are gradual and we unconsciously change the way we drive to keep the car on the road.
All well and good if everything goes to plan. However, in an emergency the problem disguised by compensated driving will, even at the speed limit, cause a serious collision.
A slight pull to the right or left when applying the brakes or squelching tyres around corners are danger signs to watch out for.
Check your wheel alignment, brake pad thickness, brake fluid, tyre pressure and tread depth.
The recommended tyre size and pressure chart is always on a factory decal inside the door, glove box or petrol cap flap, and follow the instructions.
If the problem persists then a thorough check of your suspension and steering is in order.
By keeping within the manufacturers 'tolerances', your ride will handle and stop as it was meant to with a significant margin for safety.
The cabin must not have anything in it that is unsecured since accident loose articles become missiles that can cause serious injury.
Seatbelts must be in good condition without frayed edges and if your vehicle's been in an accident, by law retractables should be replaced with new ones.
Engine, shock absorbers, suspension bushes, steering arms, transmission, clutch and differential should be looked after at regular service intervals, and suspect components repaired if necessary.
Always check that the spare wheel and tyre is in good condition and properly inflated.
A fire extinguisher mounted in the boot is also a handy safety option.
Do not ignore danger signs, as it is not just your life that may be at stake, it's also your passengers', other drivers, pedestrians and children.
Safety starts with the driver.
Don't drive when angry, irritable or under medication, keep your cool in traffic, be certain of your destination and never, ever speed when in a hurry.
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