Cars have been the quintessential mode of transport for over a century. Inventions, advancements, and innovations have made modern cars what they are today. However, we’ve ignored essential items that make driving safe and convenient in favor of focusing on the latest state-of-the-art tech features. Today I’ll be showing you five overlooked features that need your utmost attention.
The most obvious yet overlooked safety feature, it existed for almost 2 centuries but it slowly became the norm starting from the 1950s. The most revolutionary innovation came in the form of a three-point seatbelt, invented by Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin in 1958, firstly used by Volvo. The three-point seatbelt is more effective than the lap belt because it supports both the upper and lower body, while the former (lap belts) supported only the lower body leading to a high risk of whiplash and other fatal injuries such as concussions. The demand for seatbelts skyrocketed in the mid-1960s, then became law officially in 1970 as Australia became the first country to introduce it.
Enough with the boring history lesson, I have one simple question: why are motorists today not wearing their seatbelts during regular commutes?
According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 47% of the 22,215 occupants killed in 2019 were not wearing a seatbelt. Let’s focus on our local statistics, Arrive Alive made their own findings by conducting roadblocks in each province. The results were surprisingly shocking. I urge you, dear motorists to please wear your seatbelt, encourage other drivers to also wear their seatbelts, you might never know which life you are going to save.
Here is a guideline provided by the NHTSA on the primary functions of a seatbelt.
2. Hands Free Communication
Quick question, how often do you use your smartphone when driving?
Do you know that it’s dangerous? There are three tactics of distracted driving, visual, cognitive, and manual distraction. Visual distraction involves taking your eyes off the road, for example looking at your text message. Manual distraction involves taking your hands off the steering wheel for example reaching for your ringing smartphone while driving. Lastly, cognitive distraction involves taking your mind off the road, for example thinking of that divorce text message you had received from your significant other.
All of these combined lead to constant disorientation. According to Drivesafe Online in 2018 36,750 deaths related to car accidents, only 5.7% (2,095) were due to texting and driving or talking on the smartphone. What can be the solution? Hands-Free communication, making use of the car’s onboard Bluetooth system which has existed for almost two decades in the auto industry. It has evolved from installing a sim card to the cars’ onboard infotainment to now integrating your smartphone on the infotainment either by using the manufacturers’ infotainment system or using a third party in-app service (Apple Carplay and Android Auto). There are generally three ways to use hands-free communication, either at the steering wheel, through voice command, and lastly through the infotainment system.
3. Buttons, Dials and Knobs
Most of the basic functions are integrated on the center screen such as music source, climate control, navigation, etc. The problem with this is that it has the same effect as texting and driving, taking your eyes off the road and looking at the screen to search for what you are looking for. Unlike buttons and dials the more you are accustomed to it, the easier it is to remember (muscle memory). According to an article by TU Automotive, it states that a driver using a touchscreen has a slower reaction time than a drunk driver.
I’m not against touchscreens, innovation is necessary to move forward, but buttons and dials need to work in harmony with touchscreens. The perfect example of a balanced infotainment cluster can be found in cars like the new Mazda CX30 or 3 Hatchback/Sedan, as they feature both buttons and touchscreen that can be operated at stationary or at speeds less than 10Km/h.
4. Advanced Driving Course
Whether you are a seasoned driver or you are new to driving altogether, you’ll eventually need to join an advanced driving course. There are a dozen benefits as to why you should consider one, but I’ll narrow it down to three main reasons. It significantly improves your driving skills to a point that it builds your confidence in driving. You become more alert and it sharpens your abilities in order to tackle certain driving conditions (i.e wet, oversteer, understeer, emergency lane change, and braking manoeuvres). It greatly reduces your car insurance premiums, because insurance companies see you as a more competent driver and pose a lesser risk to other motorists. Lastly, it can be used as a safety measure to avoid imminent danger (i.e hijacking). Hijacking is extremely rampant in South Africa, no one is safe from perpetrators, so it’s better for you to be prepared than be the next victim. Sure it is costly to join in, but I assure you it is worth it
Here is a list of recommended advanced driving courses from reputable car brands:
- BMW Driving Experience
- AMG Driving Academy
- Jaguar Driver Experience
- Volkswagen Advanced Driving
- Toyota Driving Academy
Tyres play a significant role in keeping us motorists safe during our regular commutes, however, the average motorist rarely maintains their tyres properly. According to HiQ South Africa, the basic guidelines for tyre maintenance are tyre pressure evaluation, wheel balancing, tread depth check, wheel alignment, and rotation of tyres. Sticking with tyre pressures, always know the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle (information can be obtained on the inside of the driver’s door, owner’s manual, or even on the internet ). Maintaining correct tyre pressure helps ensure safety for yourself as well as other road users, it also improves vehicle performance, decreases tyre wear, and improves fuel economy.
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