A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter passed her driving test to achieve her P plates and she also had her first car. It was electric of course. We went for a drive with her with her shiny new red P plates on her new car.

As we travelled on some roads outside the city, my daughter tried to activate cruise control. She found it wasn’t working as expected as she still had to keep her foot on the accelerator. Sitting beside her, I refused to open the glovebox and read the manual. I am a technologist. That means that automatically all technology options for a range of different devices are somehow meant to be obvious to me. It is as if I should know how technology items work by osmosis. I just hold it and the information diffuses through to me. Imagine the embarrassment of having to actually read the manual!

Well I did read the manual and surprisingly enough learnt something new. This car not only had a cruise control button conveniently located on the steering wheel but had a feature I wasn’t aware of. Right next to the cruise control button was a speed limiter button. Activating this allowed you to drive the car as normal but the car would be limited to the speed you set. Set the speed at 60 while you drive inside the city limits and you won’t go over 60 – except if you push the accelerator all the way to the floor to override the limiter (in an emergency for example). What a great feature!

Despite all the safety advances in cars, speeding is still an issue. Driving too fast is the single biggest contributor to deaths on our roads. Speeding contributes to 41 per cent of road fatalities each year. But we have the technology to help.

The Speed Limiter system I described in my daughter’s car has to be activated by the driver. Set the speed and turn it on – much like cruise control. Other systems, known as Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA) systems use GPS and speed zone databases to help vehicles stay at the legal speed limit. At this stage, they can still be overridden – just like in my daughter’s car. An ISA system may cause the steering wheel or seat to vibrate if you go past the speed limit or give you audio or visual clues. Most people would like to stay below the speed limit – whether it be for safety or to avoid a fine – but there is a section of the Blue Mountains in NSW that I am aware of that has 32 changes of speed limit in a 104-kilometre section. It is very easy to speed accidentally.

The European Union recently passed new legislation to ensure all new cars are fitted with a version of ISA by 2024. At this stage it will be left to different manufacturers to have their own version of the tech but it must deliver on a few basic parameters.

Road safety experts in Australia are asking for the same legislation to be introduced here. The logic is that there is technology that exists to dramatically reduce the road toll. Why aren’t we using it? Data shows that modern car technology is helping our road toll with vehicles built before the year 2000 making up 20 per cent of the cars on the road but involved in 33 per cent of our fatalities.

The sooner the technology is introduced on new cars, the sooner our provisional drivers – who predominantly drive older cars – will be much safer on the roads.

Mathew Dickerson

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