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Safety

A Prancing Horse SUV and Sweden Gets Plugged In.

It’s now confirmed that Ferrari, one of the world’s great luxury sports car makers, will also release an SUV. This brings Ferrari into line with companies such as Bentley, Maserati, Jaguar, and Lamborghini.
Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari’s global chairman, dubbed the vehicle a FUV, a Ferrari Utility Vehicle, during an address in the US recently.With a mooted release date of 2020, currently, Marchionne said: ““We’re dead serious about this. We need to learn how to master this whole new relationship between exclusivity and scarcity of product, then we’re going to balance this desire to grow with a widening of the product portfolio.” Australia’s Ferrari representative, Herbert Appleroth said: “He has certainly given everyone some information on where he is thinking.”

When questioned if an SUV model would be an appropriate addition to Ferrari’s Australian range, Mr Appleroth said any future product would be embraced by the local arm and its customers. “Look, any new model that enters this market is highly popular, whatever that is,” he said. “As Enzo always said, he was asked once, ‘What is your favourite Ferrari?’ And he famously quoted, ‘The next one.’ And I think that is the same for us.

It’s said that the vehicle, in line with Ferrari’s business model model, would be exclusive and limited in release numbers.

Volvo‘s performance arm, Polestar, has unveiled its concept car, Polestar 1, and in a first for the Swedish icon, said that future cars would be exclusively electric. Polestar 1 will be manufactured in a new factory currently being built in Chengdu, China. The engine will be a super- and turbo-charged petrol engine assisted by two 80 kilowatt electric motors. Total power and torque is quoted as being 440 kW and 1000 Nm.

Thomas Ingenlath, Chief Executive Officer of Polestar said; “Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it – a great start for our new Polestar brand. All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand”.Also, Polestar cars will be ordered 100% online and offered on a two or three year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery servicing and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, all incorporated into one monthly payment. However, Polestar will open shopfronts where people can visit and physically interact with a vehicle, enhancing the tactile experience. Polestar commenced taking orders from October 17, 2017.

Auto Industry News – Q3 2017

We review all the major news events in the automotive industry from the third quarter of 2017.

 

Safety and Environment

In what became the first ever compulsory recall for vehicles in Australia, the ACCC intervened to shine the spotlight on cars affected by defective Takata airbags. The recall eventuated amid a rising number of fatalities worldwide attributed to the faulty components, including a local fatality in Sydney.

Emissions scandals continue to plague manufacturers, with Peugeot and Citroen being looked into for their alleged use of ‘cheating’ devices similar to those used by Volkswagen. The companies join Renault and Fiat Chrysler to be looked into, however, they have strongly denied the accusations. Also being accused of unconscionable conduct, Daimler is facing concerns it sold over one million cars with excess emissions.

In a boost for environmentalists, Queensland’s government announced plans to develop the world’s longest electric highway that will promote the use of electric vehicles.

 

Technology

Fuel technology continues to be a major focal point. Volvo has drawn a line in the sand, as the auto maker plans to begin phasing out petrol and diesel in the coming years. This aligns with legislation in France and the UK that will ban said vehicles from 2040, and China planning to soon ban the production of these vehicles, although Australia isn’t expected to follow suit any time soon.

Locally, the nation could be at the forefront of hydrogen fuel technology, with a world first trial set for hydrogen powered vehicles next year. South Australia even became the first Australian state to endorse hydrogen as the next fuel technology.

On a related note, Sydney will play host to integral trials surrounding the future of autonomous vehicles in Australia, while first round results from testing in Victoria suggest infrastructure and technology are currently ill equipped for self-driving vehicles. Abroad however, and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson is eyeing the electric vehicle market, set to take on dedicated manufacturers as soon as 2020.

Other technology developments include:

 

Legal and Regulatory Issues

The government was caught up in a vehicle ‘carbon tax’ controversy, with auto bodies and car makers slamming a rumoured proposal, although the government went on the front foot to deny its prospects.

Elsewhere, the ACCC commenced proceedings against Ford Australia over its ‘faulty’ auto transmissions, however the car maker announced it will contend the accusations. Also facing scrutiny from the ACCC, Holden settled an investigation by announcing the industry’s first vehicle refund and replacement scheme for the first 60 days of vehicle ownership

However, the ACCC saved its biggest salvo for the broader new car industry, detailing a wide range of concerns regarding the way customers’ complaints are dealt with, the sharing of manufacturer data with independent repairers, and real world fuel/emissions tests. The developments could give rise to lemon laws. Naturally, this provoked concern and consternation from the automotive bodies.
Finally, the Federal Court has requested Volkswagen publish changes to vehicle performance on its website and social media arising from the Dieselgate saga.

Indicate, Mate. That’d Be Great.

In surveys of the things that annoy drivers, it’s always in the order of over eighty percent that respondents say people nott indicating that rates as an annoyance. Yet, in any city or town, in any Australian state or territory, you’ll find people that either use their indicators or use them correctly as being of the minority.

In NSW a very common transgression is not indicating when crossing a merge lane, along with non indicating when pulling away from the roadside. Here’s the legislation in NSW:

(2)  The driver must give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  If the driver is about to change direction by moving from a stationary position at the side of the road or in a median strip parking area, the driver must give the change of direction signal for at least 5 seconds before the driver changes direction.

In fact, the legislation even specifies what needs to be done: “How to give a left change of direction signal. The driver of a vehicle must give a left change of direction signal by operating the vehicle’s left direction indicator lights.” Naturally this applies for the right hand side of the car too. Note also the time requirement: at LEAST five seconds. Even more confusing is when to use an indicator if a road curves and also has an exit at the apex. Far too many DON’T indicate at the apex or actually indicate as they follow the road….and don’t need to indicate.

Complicated stuff, right? So why are there so many drivers that don’t indicate? Don’t indicate for more than one or two blinks? This also coincides with drivers wrestling their cars from lane to lane almost as if they’re being blown around like a leaf in the wind. Is there something wrong with a gentle, easy, merge along with enough indication?

Roundabouts are another bugbear and these, too, are easy to deal with.

  Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

(a)  the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

(b)  the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

And:

Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout;

(1)  This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

(2)  Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

(3)  The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

(a)  the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

(b)  the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

(c)  the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

Note 2.

Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.
What’s important here is the last comment: indicate left when leaving a roundabout. I could count on one finger the amount of times this is seen on our our roads. What’s more troubling about the lack of indication Aussie drivers do is just how SIMPLE it is to indicate. Cars are designed, engineered, and built with many factors of safety, including how easy it is to access the indicator stalk. They’re literally at your finger tips. So what causes drivers to not uses them? Pride? Arrogance? Stupidity? Laziness? Distracted whilst wearing earbuds (a stupidly non-illegal rule!)?
Non indicating means no involvement in your driving, and having no involvement in driving heightens the risk factor, increases the danger factor. This is also exacerbated by the somewhat myopic focus our police and governments have on speeding as being the allegedly sole cause of crashing. Perhaps if more effort was expended on policing non indicators, not only would the revenue come but the message about being involved as a driver (as ANY worthwhile driver trainer and educator will insist upon) as a high point for safety may start seeing better examples of driving.
Be a safe driver. Indicate, mate. That’d be great.

Private Fleet Book Review: How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide From The Man Who Was The Stig by Ben Collins

As we’re less than 100 days away from Christmas, it might be time to start dropping some hints as to what you’d like your nearest and dearest to get you. For most of us, a new car is out of the question in the Christmas stocking, but a new book is probably much more feasible as a present for the typical Australian.

How To Drive by Ben Collins is a book that satisfies a number of appetites whetted by the BBC TV show Top Gear – and I’m talking about the old version with the Unholy Trinity of Jezza, Richard and James. Firstly, you finally get to find out who The Stig really is: the author of this book, former racing driver and movie stunt driver Ben Collins.  Secondly, this is the closest you’re likely to get to being taught how to drive by The Stig like those Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars.

To say that this rather chunky book (269 pages, not counting the index) is comprehensive is something of an understatement. It is packed with tips and facts to make you a better driver, starting with some historical bits and pieces, such as the development of the tyre, and goes from the basics through to advanced stunt driving as you work your way through the book. And when I say “the basics”, I really do mean the basics: starting with the importance of good seating position and holding the wheel correctly. In the final section, you get all the really fun stuff you don’t want to do anywhere apart from a proper track or else a deserted field (with permission of the farmer, of course): doughnuts, burnouts, drifting and the J-turn… and the “don’t try this at home” 180-degree and 90-degree stunt turns into a parking space.

As most of us want to know more about The Stig and who he really is, the book is peppered with anecdotes, not just about Stiggy’s time with Top Gear but also the movie driving and race driving he’s done.  For the record, Ben Collins has been a stunt driver in Fast and Furious, Spiderman 2 and Quantum of Solace… at the very least. Those are the movies cited in the index, anyway.  And yes, he’s body-doubled James Bond for these stunts.  There are photos to prove it.  You also get glimpses of behind the scenes at Le Mans and NASCAR, etc.  The stories aren’t all “look at how good I am” showing off: there are a few “how I got it wrong” tales in there as well.

It’s also not just a how-to book, although there are tons and tons of step-by-step instructions and handy diagrams.  The physics of what’s going on is explained, as well as the psychology, and plenty of it.  Again and again, the importance of having being in the right headspace is emphasised, and it’s not all testosterone-fuelled drive and competition, which will come as something of a relief for those of us whom Nature didn’t give loads of testosterone, aka 50% of the population.  Collins provides tips not just from the motor racing world but also from Samurai warriors and jet pilots.  There’s even a diet to help you stay alert when expecting a long day’s driving.  The physics and the psychology – and the instructions – are all presented in a very readable way with a sense of humour.  It’s hard to forget the mnemonic for correcting oversteer, for example: Steer, Hold It, Turn (the initial letters are probably what you’re saying…).  The ebook version would certainly be great when you’re waiting in the doctor’s surgery and would pass the time very pleasantly (the hardcover is a bit hard to cart about in your pocket).

It’s a British book, so some of the explanations and complaints about roundabouts, give way rules, motorways and the licensing system may not (and in many cases do not) apply to Australia. However, the majority of what’s in there does apply (including, hooray, hooray, the keep-left rule).

This is a book that will keep plenty of drivers happy, as there’s something for everyone in there, whether the reader’s on their L-Plates or whether he/she has been driving for decades.  It’s a goldmine of motoring trivia that will make you chuckle as well as being a great practical tome that ought to be standard issue along with a copy of the Road Code to learner drivers.

How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide – From The Man Who Was The Stig
Ben Collins
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4472-7283-0 (hardback), 978-1-4472-7285-4 (paperback). 272 pages. Ebook available.

Car Review: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige.

Suzuki continues to cement its position as a leader in the small car market by giving us an updated 2017 Suzuki SX-4 S-Cross. Although a sort of SUV look, it’s not. It’s front wheel drive only, powered by a ripper petrol fuelled turbo four. Like it so far? Private Fleet does.There’s three trim levels, simply named GL, Turbo, and Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige. The test car, the Prestige, gets the same 1.4 litre turbo engine as the Turbo, however the GL is the outgoing model. Just need to clarify that…

Anyways, there’s a simple question the S-Cross Turbo poses. Is it any good? Most of the time a simple question has a simple answer and so it is with this car. Yes.First up, there’s that belter of an engine. 1.4L. 16 valves. Turbocharged. 103 kilowatts. Torque: 220 of them between 1500 to 4000. Transmission: six pseed auto. Potency level? High. This combination is superb. It reacts to a breath on the go pedal, the gearbox is crisp, shifts quickly and without fuss, and even with traction control on, will happily and merrily chirp the front driven 215/55/17 Continental tyres. It’s a corker. Consumption in a mainly urban environment finshed on 6.7L per 100 km from the 1170 kilogram plus fuel (47 litre) and passenger vehicle.It’s a ripper handler too, with beautifully weighted steering connecting the driver to the road and providing plenty of feedback. The ride quality also is near nigh perfect with a supple mix of sporting and absorption offering an ideal combination of tautness and comfort from the McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension.Tip it into a tightening radius corner and the body will lean but ever so slightly, whilst the tiller requires minimal input to adjust to the curver coming in on itself. Pound it across the sunken and raised sections of various tarmac roads and you’ll feel a small bump before it passes and the chassis settles rapidly. Brake wise it’s spot on, with feedback straight away and a progressive travel allowing a driver to judge just….when…more or less pressure was needed.Suzuki have also performed a stunning piece of engineering upon the S-Cross, managing to squeeze apartment sized room inside a shoebox. The S-Cross is a mere 4300 mm in length, stands tallish at 1585 mm and spans 1785 mm horizontally. Inside that overall length is a 2600 mm wheelbase, ensuring ample leg, shoulder, and head room for four people, although three up in the rear seat is a touch squeezy. Luggage space is also huge at 430L to 1269L, including a double tray storage plus there’s the usual assortment of bottle and cup holders.The interior design is now familiar and standard Suzuki; there’s the four quarter touchscreen with Navigation, Apps, radio and Phone plus voice activation, traditional and eminently usable dials for the aircon, blue backlit driver’s binnacle dials and a simple to read and use monochrome screen between them. The dash and console design is a curvy design, flowing around into the doors in a clear swoop and with airvents/gear selector surround/door trim highlighted in alloy look plastic. The manually adjusted seats seats are heated (not cooled) and are a comfortable mix of leather and cloth. Of course the rear seats are 60/40 in split and foldable to allow access to that capacious and well trimmed boot. If there’s a negative it’s a small but persistent one. The setbelt straps in the height adjustable locaters were double strapped, as in both front and rear were reachable to pull over and it was the rear strap, not front, that kept getting grabbed.Outside it’s unrecognisable from the original SX4 of 2007 and noticeably different from the superceded model The tail lights have been subtly but obviously refreshed however it’s the bluffer, more “no nonsense” front end that has the 2017 S-Cross standing out. Although the headlight cluster (LED projector on the Prestige) looks almost the same, they’re a touch more angular and feature dusk sensing in the Prestige. It’s the stand out proud reprofiled nose, with an assertive chrome grille, polyurethane black running from the centre to the rear along the flanks and with a splash of metal chrome around the globe lit DRLs. There’s a crease line and stance not unlike Ford’s Escape, a 180 mm ride height, and hi-vis polished alloys to finish the visual appeal.Safety is high, as usual, with reverse camara, sensors front and rear, Hill Hold Control, 2 ISOFIX points, seven airbags including knee, electronic driver aids, even an auto dimming rear vision mirror. Servicing is capped for up to 5 Years / 100,000km and you’ll get a 100,000 km or three year warranty.

At The End Of The Drive.
Suzuki have pretty much stamped themselves leaders of the small car builders. There’s a new Jimny on the way as well to further fuel the fire of desire for this slightly quirky but nonetheless enjoyable brand from Japan. The 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Prestige Turbo builds upon their revamped range and is a genuine contender for best in class. Find out more about this pearler, here: 2017 Suzuki S-Cross Turbo Prestige

Will Manufacturers be able to Eliminate Car Crashes?

In recent years, car developments have largely oriented around safety improvements. Manufacturers have honed in on this area, hoping to address the issue of fatalities on our roads. And for the large part, auto makers have played a notable role in reducing the road toll. Further innovations and developments are now being spoken of to maintain this momentum, and possibly, eliminate car crashes all together. But is this really possible?

There are no shortage of measures being designed as a direct response to car accidents. To name a few:

  • Forward collision systems that detect an impending crash;
  • Adaptive headlights which provide visibility around corners;
  • Magnetic roads that ‘guide’ vehicles;
  • Communicative vehicles that ‘speak’ with one another;
  • And the most prominent innovation, fully autonomous vehicles

While each of these innovative measures could help reduce road casualties even further, there’s still a very obvious facet missing from the discussion here. That is, we seem to be doing everything to modify technology, but we’re not actually addressing driver behaviour. In fact, we’re looking to bypass the driver to achieve desired results. Hardly an encouraging fact.

Although making technological changes is all well and good, they introduce a disparity between road users. Those who are driving the latest cars equipped with such technology, and those who do not. Even though many innovations eventually become mainstream across all levels of new vehicles, the time for this roll out is often such that new technology features come along. That is, by the time one feature becomes standard across all vehicles, the next ‘must have’ technology is being fitted into top of the line vehicles. Then the cycle continues.

We’re also not at a level where we can begin to depend on technology at all costs. That is, drivers should not be taught to become ‘dummies’ in their cars, oblivious to their surroundings. The fact is, things can, and sometimes do go wrong when technology is involved, and this is unlikely to be any different when installed in a car where external factors can cause a hazard.

This is where an emphasis needs to return to the person behind the wheel, who ultimately, can still cause an accident on our roads by way of being distracted, poor driving habits, a mistake, or through reckless actions. Today’s licencing requirements are indeed far too lenient. Sure, the burden has increased for new drivers who are on their P plates, but the focus is still misdirected.

It is important new drivers are tested on their ability to drive cautiously and courteously on our roads. This is not a matter for dispute. However, reactive mechanisms have largely been overlooked. That is, if one finds themselves losing control of a vehicle, or in danger of causing an accident, drivers need to be equipped with the necessary motoring skills to avoid or at least mitigate the impact of a crash.

Therefore, as we proceed down the rabbit hole where we increasingly rely on technology doing all the driving for us, we need to be considerate about the impact this will have on driver behaviour. Technological developments will save countless lives but until we also address the skills and mindset of the person behind the wheel, we’re still some time away from getting anywhere near zero road fatalities.

AWD v FWD v RWD

Traction

When it comes to buying your new vehicle, should it be FWD (Front Wheel Drive), RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) or AWD (All Wheel Drive)?  How the car gets shoved along might not matter to many drivers, however there are some differences between the driving layouts that are worth pointing out.  There are some changes occurring where car manufacturers are adopting a new layout for certain key reasons, and we’ll see why shortly.  What type of drive system you prefer really depends on what kind of a driver you are and the conditions you usually find yourself drive in.

Let’s take a look at the three types for drive trains and note the differences.

Firstly we’ll start with RWD, mainly because this can be lots of fun to drive.  A RWD car has a simple design where the drive shaft runs the length of the vehicle: from the engine to the rear wheels.  The design is generally simple and rugged.  It’s less likely to break when running over a curb or large pothole.  FWD vehicles are more complex, and with the added weight over the front axle the chances you’re going to break something in the FWD design is more likely.  FWD set-ups incorporate half-shafts and constant velocity (CV) joints that are more susceptible to damage than a RWD car’s solid axle.

RWD cars usually have a slightly better weight distribution (not as heavy at the front end compared with a FWD car), creating better handling because of this.  A RWD car spreads the weight of its drivetrain more evenly front-to-rear.  But an issue with the RWD layout can arise when the road conditions get slippery.  Rain, snow and ice create scenarios where loss of traction at the rear becomes more likely in a RWD car.

FWD cars do, however, provide better economy – not only in fuel consumption but also in manufacturing costs.  With fewer parts the drivetrain is easier and cheaper to mount into the car as it progresses down the assembly line.  FWD cars are often lighter than RWD equivalents thanks to the design not having to use separate transmission and axle assemblies used in a RWD car.  Reduction in weight leads to better fuel economy on the road, and this is a big draw card for new car buyers.

In certain conditions FWD offers better traction compared with a RWD car.  In the rain and snow, FWD gets better traction on the driving wheels because the front wheels have the extra engine and transaxle weight sitting on top of the front driving wheels – which helps to get better grip in slippery conditions.  Also, the front wheels are pulling rather than pushing the car along, aiding steering control in poor road conditions.

Being nose heavy, FWD cars aren’t usually quite as nimble and fast through the corners as RWD cars. When road conditions allow for higher speeds to be attained, FWD cars have to steer and drive the car with extra weight at the front.  This is why very few “serious” performance cars are FWD.  Maintenance costs are higher compared with RWD, so new bits like CV joints and boots will need to be replaced as the kilometres pass by.

This leaves us with AWD, and the best thing about AWD is that it gives some of the advantages of both RWD and FWD.  The number one advantage of AWD is excellent traction in dry and wet road conditions.  Some AWD designs lean slightly toward the front wheels doing more work, while others lean more toward the rear wheels doing more of the work.  The RWD-based versions are usually more performance-oriented but any of the AWD cars will do a top job of balancing the car’s handling and driving dynamics.

AWD cars do cost more to buy compared with RWD and FWD cousins.  This is because they cost more to produce with all the extra drive train components.  The extra running gear also costs more to maintain.  AWD systems are also heavier drive systems which makes for higher fuel consumption.  The higher fuel consumption, higher production costs and higher maintenance costs will put some buyers off, however a die-hard Subaru fan will have you think otherwise.  For ultimate performance, the AWD system can’t be beaten.

There are electronic traction control systems and driver aids that are getting better-and-better which do aid both the car’s handling and performance characteristics, as well as safety.  And, particularly in variable road conditions that might be wet and slippery, these extra electronic control systems can’t be beat.  These systems are widely used in many FWD, RWD and AWD cars.

The trend is that new car buyers are looking for more SUV and all-purpose vehicles to buy.  It has become simpler for automakers to reconfigure FWD models into AWD formulas where the AWD system is front-wheel power biased.  We are seeing more of these vehicle types on our road, which also means there is a decline in new RWD cars being bought.

Just for interest sake: Holden are still keeping the Commodore name, however the new Commodore won’t have a rear-wheel drive variant.  Instead, it’ll be offered in a front-wheel drive configuration for mainstream models, while a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 AWD model will be the performance model in the line-up.  With a nine-speed automatic gearbox, no differential with dual-clutch control systems controlling front and rear wheels independently, and torque vectoring the AWD model will be a performer.

Holden Commodore AWD

Also interesting is that BMW Motorsport engineers are looking to produce M-badged cars with an AWD model as well as a RWD variant.  With BMW’s M cars getting so powerful, the boss of BMW’s M Division, Frank van Meel, said that it’s getting hard to sell M cars without AWD in markets like Canada and Switzerland where conditions are slippery.

BMW M5 AWD

There is only so much horsepower you can put through two wheels before obtaining the grip needed to accelerate fast is compromised.  Even with the best traction and launch control aids, 2WD systems are beaten by AWD systems, and when engines have such immense power now, AWD is the only logical step forward for performance car manufacturers like BMW.  Audi, Porsche and Nissan already have plenty of experience with AWD performance models.

Why You Need To Keep Left

… Because you’ll be killed in a head-on smash, that’s why.

OK, let’s clarify a few things here.  Obviously, all of us need to drive on the road so that we don’t bump into other drivers.  When Car A is travelling north at 65 km/h on a road and Car B is travelling southwards at 85 km/h and the road is – whoops, channelled the old-fashioned maths books there for a moment – anyway, how do they keep from bumping into one another? Very simply, in Australia, we have agreed to keep to the left.

So why the left?  Why not the right?  In Australia, we can put this down to our colonial heritage.  We were colonised by the UK, which is why you’re reading this in English, so all that happened is that they imported their road rules along with the roads.

OK, so why do the Brits drive on the left-hand side of the road?

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just the Brits who drove on the left-hand side of the road back in the horse and carriage days.  According to one source, everybody used to drive on the left once upon a time.  The reasons for this went back to the Romans (like the standard gauge on railway tracks) and possibly even earlier than this.  This is because of two facts about human beings: (1) the majority are right-handed and (2) we have belligerent tendencies.  Anyone approaching you head-on could be an enemy or at least a potential jerk who doesn’t know how to drive his/her oxcart properly, and you might need to defend yourself and/or teach the jerk a lesson.  Road rage is nothing new. In fact, it pre-dates roads, as one Egyptian tomb painting illustrates: it shows two boatmen having a punch up (with one spouting hieroglyphics that were translated as “Take that, you f***er!”) after having rammed each other on the Nile.  Anyway, if you’re right-handed and want to have your sword hand on the side nearest the potential oncoming enemy, you kept left.  This applied even to foot traffic – and was made official law for tourists pilgrims according to a Papal Edict in the 1300s.

If you’ve ever seen jousting in one of those historical re-enactment displays, you’ll see the origins of the “keep left” principle in action.  If you’re a knight, you keep your lance tucked firmly under yourright arm and then keep left in the lists so the lance hits the other guy, not your own horse’s head. It’s common sense.

We also mount horses and bikes from the left so our right hands do the balancing or take our weight (or hang onto the saddle in case the horse decides to take off while you’re halfway through the proceedings).  To make things easy getting on and off, you want to do this from the kerb, so you keep on the side nearest the kerb.  Even today, look at the tilt on the kickstand on a modern motorbike: it leans left so that the majority of bikers can get on and off comfortably (question: are there left-handed motorbikes that lean the other way?  Must ask my left-handed biker brother-in-law.)

So why on earth did people start to keep right in some parts of the world?   The person to blame is supposedly Napoleon.  According to some accounts, he may have been left-handed, so he insisted on doing things the left-handed way.  Alternatively, it may have just been the tendency of nutty dictators to make their armies walk in a funny way just because (think of Nazi Germany or North Korea).  A more boring theory puts it down to the habit of driving large teams of horses which meant that the driver had to sit on the left with the whip in his left hand (though don’t ask me why this was necessary).  And, thanks to the French Revolution, nuts to any Papal Edicts that had been knocking around since the Middle Ages!

Drive on zat side of ze road!

Anyway, the habit of driving on the right started in France and spread, along with French manners and Napoleon’s empire, around large chunks of Europe.  It also became the habit in the US, partly because one of the generals in the War of Independence was French (General Lafayette) and partly because they didn’t want to do things like the Brits did, and the Brits had defiantly refused to change the good old-fashioned habit just because Napoleon had said to. I say, old chap, we won’t do that!

As an aside, the French and the Americans deciding to do things the opposite of the Brits, whom they hated, was also responsible for the “pink for girls, blue for boys” thing.  Posh Brits wanting to dress their offspring in gender-distinct colours picked pink for boys, as this was considered a strong, bold colour that was a baby version of military red; blue was already associated with the Virgin Mary and was considered softer, gentler and more soothing.  The French, however, had their soldiers in blue uniforms and, sacré bleu, were going to reflect this in their baby clothes; thanks to the Revolution when they all officially became athiests/agnostics, who cares about Mary? The Yanks also hated the Redcoats, so they ditched pink for boys as well.

Anyway, I digress.  The French and the Americans decided to do things their way and introduce keeping right.  Those sharing a continent with them often ended up following suit and because they’d spent time under Napoleon’s possibly left thumb.  As the use of the motorcar spread, those sharing continents with them also made the shift from left to right to avoid cross-border carnage and also because they wanted posh American cars.

However, those of us with our own motoring industries in countries where the border is the beach kept to the old traditions, mostly because we don’t have the cross-border muddles and we produced our own posh cars, thank you.  The UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan all drive on the left. So does India, probably because of the lengthy period of British colonialization.  Around one-third of the world still keeps left.

However, according to some road safety experts, keeping left versus keeping right isn’t as inconsequential and trivial as, say, the colours you use to show whether Bubs is a boy or a girl. The majority of the population is still right-handed and right-eyed, so it makes sense to have your dominant hand on the wheel actually controlling the direction of the car while the non-dominant hand moves the gears, and to have your dominant eye getting the best view of the traffic.

There has actually been a study, carried out in the late 1960s by a chap called J.J Leeming (who was a Brit – which may have biased his results), which suggests that when you take all other factors into account, the road accident rate is slightly higher in countries that drive on the right compared with those that drive on the left, thanks to the handedness factor. I have attempted to find out whether these results, originally published in a wee book called Road Accidents: Prevent or Punish? have been verified, but Google Scholar doesn’t seem to reveal any that directly compare accident rates in left-side countries versus right-side countries controlling for other factors.  Any civil engineering grad students out there looking for a good thesis topic who want to do this?

And there you have it: keeping left is possibly the oldest road safety rule known to humanity.  Keeping left isn’t fighting the natural preferences of the majority (sorry, lefties!).  So make sure you do it!

Road Rage.

Road rage. Two words guaranteed to trigger responses, raise hackles, flush cheeks, cause divisions and have opinions. But what is road rage? Wikipedia provided a simple, unambiguous meaning: “Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior by a driver of an automobile or other road vehicle which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver in an effort to intimidate or release frustration.”

In NSW we have seen a couple of high profile examples of road rage recently, however it’s a daily occurence for unknown numbers. What do we see? People speeding past; changing lanes with no signal; weaving dangerously across three and four lanes; passing too closely on either side of your car; speeding up to block you out; not allowing you to change lanes or merge on or off the highway; racing other drivers (i.e., two maniacs who think car-handling skills are better than they actually are); roaring up behind as if they might intentionally rear-end you; constant tailgating; horn honking; flashing high beams at your mirror when you are in “their” fast lane; finger flipping; screaming out the window; causing or creating accidents; pulling over to fight; or worse, kill the other driver.

Whom do we see doing it? Frankly, just about anyone. However it’s also no longer a gender specific issue, as Psychology Today (USA based) says: Women may not get into roadside fistfights or point guns at each other like men, but they can drive just as aggressively, rudely, and even dangerously.

Personal experience from my point of view does, sadly, back up the validity of the comment. Even more sadly, a good proportion of the drivers one could describe as driving badly are P platers, those that would have finished their training anywhere between a few days to three years before, with a slight leaning towards males being “assertive” on their driving styles.

But there’s so many things that constitute bad driving that inflame and raise the ire of other drivers. A number of surveys point, somewhat oddly, to drivers failing to indicate as a major heart rate raiser. I say oddly given the sheer amount of vehicles with “broken indicators”….There’s little doubt a favourite is the slow lane speeders, those that hold up other drivers at a velocity below the speed limit on a single lane yet somehow find the extra effort to keep pace or move forward of you when a lane for overtaking becomes available.

Another seeming favourite is the tailgater, with “braketesting” a close follower. Driver’s that’ll sit right on the rear of your car for no apparent reason, and especially when there’s no possibility of them overtaking on either side due to traffic numbers. The braketesters, the ones that slow suddenly and again for no apparent reason, are in there as a road rager.

A comment from a follower of a road safety and driver education social media page was: “Those that drive at night with just their DRLs (daytime driving lights) and forget that the tail lights don’t come on so you can’t see them. And when you flash your lights at them to try and get them to turn theirs on they become aggressive.”

But what of the reactions? One response was: “people are genuinely sick and tired of bad drivers when there’s no need for bad driving.” Is there a level of impatience with people that simply don’t seem to be able to do something that genuinely isn’t that hard?

We’d like to hear from you. Tell us your experiences of road rage and why you think it exists.

Which Driving Habits are Damaging Your Car

We’ve previously detailed some of the frustrating and pointless driving habits we witness on our roads. But what about the habits that we should be mindful of that have the potential to damage our car. Not only could these habits pose an inconvenience by forcing you off the road, they may also involve costly repairs. Let’s take a look at some of these driving habits.

 

Harsh Braking or Accelerating

While the thrill of accelerating is a joy to some, harsh accelerating, as well as sudden braking, can both lead to earlier maintenance. When accelerating in this manner you put the car’s engine under more stress. What’s more, if the engine isn’t fully warm, the wear on the engine is even more pronounced because oil has yet to be circulated through the engine system.

Sudden braking on the other hand can shorten the life span of the brakes, brake pads and rotors. Furthermore, if you’re inclined to ride the brakes, they will be worn down faster by way of the heat generated. Like you were taught in your driving lessons, you should always maintain a smooth transition when accelerating or braking.

 

Riding the Clutch

When it comes to manual vehicles, riding the clutch can lead to its own complications. Pressure from the clutch, regardless of how little, raises plates away from the flywheel. Without the friction between the clutch and the flywheel, the flywheel begins to slip leading to wear. Over time, this can lead to the clutch failing. Also when it comes to manual cars, keep an eye out for being in the wrong gear, which can deteriorate the engine and cylinder heads.

 

Ignoring the Hand Brake

Hand brakes were designed for a reason. To support the weight of the car while it is parked. When you opt not to use the hand brake, all the car’s weight is transferred to another component in the transmission of the vehicle – the parking prawl. The thing is, once you start to excessively load this part, it will eventually fail and render the parking in your transmission useless. Similarly, when you’re on a hill, you should be particularly precise to put the car’s transmission into neutral first, before setting the hand brake. Once you’ve done this and released the brakes, you may then subsequently shift the transmission into park.

 

Running the Fuel Tank Dry

Many of us are guilty of this. And in fact, you don’t even have to run the tank empty to cause problems. Problems may eventuate by leaving the tank at a low level. How? Well, fuel acts as a lubricant. Modern day fuels also have cleansing properties designed to look after the fuel pump and filter. When you run your fuel low, you can allow rust and dirt from the bottom of the tank to enter and damage the fuel filter.

 

Not Breaking the Car In Slowly

You know how during the early kilometres of your new vehicle there is a ‘break in’ period where it is advised you don’t drive aggressively? Well, that’s not just for your own safety. This is a form of conditioning, where you effectively allow a newly built vehicle to settle in and become accustom to stress from operation. While modern day cars do some form of this during manufacturing, it is still recommended that you don’t push it too hard during these early stages or you may compromise the vehicle’s life span ever so slightly.

 

Not Paying Attention to the Warning Signs

Just like you would listen to your body if it was telling you something wrong, you should listen to your vehicle. If you receive warning lights on your dashboard, make sure you understand what they are and that you address the problem. The sophistication of these systems is quite advanced, even when it comes to informing you of maintenance. If you start to delay maintenance, you may compound any existing problems and allow oils to turn into sludge that can damage the engine.