Moved by motor show and safety demos
The Moving Motor Show, precursor to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, enabled me to fulfil an ambition to drive up the famous hill climb course.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day out and would urge you to go, if you haven’t been before. A number of the old competition vehicles – an Opel Manta 400 still stirs the blood and the Vincent-engined sidecar was amazing – attending the festival were on view on the Thursday without the need to peer over the shoulders of a milling throng, and there was plenty else on offer to entertain, although I chickened out of the absailing on the Chevrolet stand.
A shame then, that one young punter decided to furrow part of Lord March’s front garden by ignoring the advice of his experienced passenger, and flung someone else’s hot hatch into the straw bales, fortunately without serious injury to either party nor onlookers. This was supposed to be a sensible drive, for heavens’ sake, not a competition. Manufacturers made their cars available and put their staff at risk by sitting them alongside Dave Dodgem and offering free rein. Emulating the pro-drivers in their Audi R8s wasn’t supposed to be on the agenda. It’s that old saying again: you can’t stop the nut behind the wheel.
Recent figures from the Department For Transport showed UK road deaths and serious injuries both increased in 2011. The Road Safety Foundation believes previous years’ steady reductions in road deaths was largely due to improved passive safety in new vehicles, such as airbags and crumple zones, and that continuing to improve safety technology in cars is the way to go.
Fleets are urged to lead the way by insisting our cars are fitted with items such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and systems which do the braking for you. Never mind the cost, because actually you can’t put a price on safety, we’re told.
But there is a much cheaper way to reduce accidents and that is to get inside the head of the driver and start to change attitudes. Most full driving licence holders have one brain, two eyes and two ears, set in a head which has the ability to swivel through a good 180 degrees. They should have the ability to use each of those together to anticipate hazards, identify danger, and plan an appropriate reaction – at which point most accidents become avoidable.
And I guess that’s why I applaud psychometric profiling of the kind offered by Dr Lisa Dorn at Cranfield, together with follow-up interventions delivered by a professional, or by trained staff at your own company, rather than a basic Highway Code related test and blanket on-road training across all employees.
If you can intelligently discuss with a driver what makes him or her react in a particular way, there is an opportunity to sway their thinking and engender a safer culture where they take responsibility for their own actions and accept that it’s not OK to carry on into a situation where they were in the right, but are still going to come off worst; or dead.
I once had the pleasure of attending a day at Robb Gravett’s Ultimate Car Control facility at Crowthorne. In the last exercise of the day, each of us was given a traffic cone. We were told a professional driver would drive a straight line at 50mph and at a particular point, brake as hard as he could. We had to place our cone along his route at the point where we thought he would come to a halt. It was very sobering to see the professional mow down a line of cones. We all need more education.
I’m all for progress in technology but all that expense will continue to be wasted unless we can turn the nut behind the wheel before he is screwed.