In car safety
Over the past 20 years, vehicle design and the use of safety
features have contributed greatly to making crashes more
survivable. Things like seatbelts, airbags, side impact bars and
crumple zones have undoubtedly saved many thousands of lives.
Cars have changed enormously in living memory, but the thing
that hasn’t changed in that time, or indeed for the last 2 million
years, is human fallibility – drivers have stayed the same.
However, knowing cars have these features can contribute to more
risk for drivers and passengers. If you truly believe you are
driving in the safest vehicle around, it sounds like nothing could
harm you. How might this affect the way you drive that vehicle?
There is a chance you are more likely to take greater risk,
believing you are safe and the safety features will lessen the
impact of your mistakes. This can lead to overestimating your
ability and underestimating the risk.
Humans will make mistakes and some will take great risk. Not
everyone is trained to the same level, so there will be different
approaches to the same situation.
No matter what features there are in cars to help make crashes
more survivable, cars are still crashing and people are still
dying. The safety features available cannot guarantee that everyone
will walk away from a crash involving at least 1.5 tonnes of metal
travelling at speed.
Human factors are a key component in the cause of 95% of all
crashes – people make bad choices that lead to crashes. If you
could take the human element away from driving, then 95% of crashes
wouldn’t happen. Vehicle manufacturers know that we are generally
very poor at taking driving seriously, and are starting to
introduce robotic features to compensate for poor driving.
Some cars are now fitted with sensors that tell you how close
you are to vehicles in front or behind. There is assistance for the
driver if the on-board computer senses that braking isn’t
sufficient, or that acceleration is too great.
Some vehicles can alert the driver if they appear to be
deviating from their driving lane and there are even systems being
developed to sense if a driver is falling asleep, or has alcohol in
Gradually, responsibility for safe driving is being taken from
the human and given to robotic systems – because we cannot be
trusted to take this responsibly seriously at all times. Clearly it
will take many years to reach the situation where we no longer have
drivers and passengers, but just passengers, as the driving is
being done for us by automated systems.
Until that time, we have to rely on people to drive and accept
that we will still see, and hear, about many avoidable, life
changing events that kill and injure people on the roads
- we take the driving activity for granted, as we do it every
- we believe our ability is at least sufficient if not very
- we think “I wont be involved in a crash, and if I am, I have
all my safety features to keep me safe”.