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Zen and the Art of Safety.

What’s the first thing on your mind when you get into your car? Kids? Problems with the spouse? The long drive to work because of traffic? It’s fair to say that no thought is given to having a safe drive, because we just expect that we’ll get where ever we’re going without a problem, because we know we have a safe car. What’s in our cars that relates to safety? Let’s check out some of the terms we get thrown at us by the good folk that are tasked with helping you buy your new car.

ABS. Anti lock Braking System. Possibly the most common and certainly one that’s been with us for some time. In this case, the name pretty much describes what they do. Hit the brake pedal, hard, you’ll feel a mild pulsation through the pedal, that’s the system grabbing and releasing the brakes, possibly up to 15 times per second. Let’s consider, for argument’s sake, a 1985 Corolla; you’d flatten the brake pedal, the brake pads would bite the brake discs and the wheels would lock, stopping rotation and control of the car. anti-lock-brake-systemABS allows a driver to steer out of a situation as the wheels haven’t locked up and possibly avoiding major contact. The caveat here is that ABS works just fine on tarmac, dry tarmac preferably. If you were to take an ABS equipped car off road and into gravel, for example, then you’d more than likely find the car would take longer to stop, however manufacturers would calibrate off road vehicles for this.

ESC. Electronic Stability Control. In essence, ESC is an evolution of ABS, in that sensors measure brake pressure, the angle of the car (forward and sideways) then applies brake pressure to the wheels the system has determined needs more and decreases when not required. It’s sometimes felt when a car is going into a turn too hard and the car is “forced” to slow and straighten up, with the system possibly programmed to reduce engine power to reduce traction further. ESC is also known as ESP (Electronic Stability Program) or DSC (Dynamic Stability Control).traction contorl Part of these systems is Traction Control, where, for example, a driver could accelerate hard from a standing start, with the system sensing that too much power and torque is being applied, causing the tyres to spin and will then shut down the level of power in order to stop that spinning.

SRS Airbags. Supplementary Restraint System Airbags. The key word here is “Supplementary”; the onus is and should always be on the driver to be in control of their driving style. A SRS Airbag setup complements the seats belts that a driver, passengers, should be wearing, however, should their be an impact, a sensor reads that and fires a small explosive charge that inflates, very quickly, a bag made of fabric. Initially, airbags were fitted to the steering wheel and in a pocket in front of the passenger. airbagNow we have seat airbags, located in the lining of the front seats; curtain airbags, mounted along the curve of the roof inside the lining and above the passengers, which then floods down to the window line. There’s even knee and thorax airbags with one company discussing seat belt airbags. Airbags are designed to help reduce the impact of the human body on the inside of the car; in some countries where seat belts are not as rigidly enforced for usage, the ‘bags fire quicker to compensate.

EBA. Emergency Brake Assist. Some drivers may be too timid or physically unable to push the brake pedal as hard as needed in an emergency situation. Sensors will measure the brake pedal input against other readings and make apply a higher force of braking than the driver has applied. EBD (Emergency Brake Distribution) then may be called upon; this redistributes, as required, braking force to each wheel by apportioning pressure to the wheel most in need of extra braking pressure in order to help stabilise the car.

EuroNCAP. Euro New Car Assessment program. This is nothing more than a series of tests, mainly involving crash testing, to determine the structural strength of a car and how it combines with crumple zones, the airbags and more, in order to determine the safety rating of the vehicle in question. In Australia, the aim is to have a vehicle reach a star rating of five, the highest possible under current guidelines.

ISOFix. Most cars sourced from overseas have a new (to Australia) method of mounting a child seat. Where a system of strapping via seatbelts would be used, ISOFix is a latching system where metal rods will lock on to clips mounted in the creaseline of the rear seats. Isofix_anchorpointsThey’re designed to hold up to 30 kilos of total weight, ensuring the highest possible safety factor for your child.

HUD. Head Up Display. Possible more familiar for those that follow military technology but the concept is exactly the same; a screen is built into the dash in front of the driver and reflected into the windscreen.holden head up display Information such as speed, fuel level, G forces, fuel range can be displayed at the touch of a button, with some companies including speed zones and alerts. It’s surprisingly useful and is designed to be non distracting to the driver.

ICC. Intelligent Cruise Control. Also known as Adaptive Cruise Control. This is becoming more and more visible, trickling down from the luxury vehicles to more mainstream cars. Normal cruise control simply locks in a preset speed and keeps the car at that, regardless of road conditions and traffic. Intelligent cruise control uses a radar system, mounted either in the front grille or in a housing where the rear vision mirror mounts to the inside of the windscreen. subaru-eyesightBy measuring the distance between your car and the one in front, it will then keep your car not only at the predetermined speed but at a predetermined distance (either by time or by metres) from the vehicle ahead. All will slow the vehicle should that car ahead slow and most will bring your car to a complete stop as well, with some requiring human input to recommence forward motion.

All of these systems should be considered supplementary, as you, the driver, should be aware of your car’s condition, the road conditions, other drivers, at all times. Extra driver training courses are available and will cover levels from a new driver to more experienced drivers that wish to be refreshed on their own capabilities.