A.B.S. can lead to A Big Smash

September 4, 2015 5:33 am Published by

abs_getting_feelingAnti-lock braking – ABS has been around for a very long time yet it never ceases to amaze me, or my professional team of driver trainers that most people have no idea how it works. If drivers are exposed to a panic stop, their first reaction when feeling the pedal pulsate is to release brake pressure. On the road this has resulted in many drivers crashing with the same comment – The brake pedal went all funny. Referred to as an accident by authorities, you have to ask, did the driver learn from this or could they be a repeat offender?

From our perspective these drivers have learnt nothing and yes they will continue down the same path blissfully unaware it was their fault. Enlightenment is an amazing thing and through education people learn. Most drivers start their journey learning basic mobility skills taught by someone with more experience. The term referred to for a novice driver is – unconsciously incompetent. With practice people become more conscious of their actions with competency or skills hopefully developed to a higher level. Notice how I included the word ‘hopefully?’ Now we are supposed to have drivers that are consciously competent meaning they are fully aware of their actions, and they can handle any challenge that comes their way.

I don’t know about your driver prowess but from where we see things in the driver education industry the current system of learning to drive is not keeping up with the fast changing pace of life.

Now include advances in motor vehicle technology, busier roads, impatience and it is easy to see why so many drivers are unconsciously unaware of what to do in a panic situation. It’s not their fault either, they just don’t know how technology functions which must shift the blame back to Governments that dictate what method of driver training/development is acceptable. Australia is a progressive country, we lead the world in medicine, engineering and many other pursuits, however the one area where we fall behind is driver competency. It’s time our elected politicians showed leadership and set up a task force to look into what are best practices. By setting the wheels in motion, at least this gets the subject on the table creating robust discussion.

Recently I travelled south from Perth WA to a little town called Augusta. A four hour drive, roads are a very high standard and the scenery spectacular. Now throw in Murphy’s Law, you know, when it can go wrong it will. One minute we are bathed in glorious sunshine, cruise control set on 100km/h, life is perfect, then the sky opens up. I’m talking torrential rain creating massive water flow with limited vision. Wipers on full speed, deactivate cruise control as this gives you more feel and driver control and I slowed to about 80km/h.

At this speed driving was still treacherous, even though I was in a 5 star all-wheel drive vehicle. The term ‘aquaplaning’ is when the amount of water being dispersed by the tyre tread can’t escape fast enough. As a rule of thumb, the average water displacement per fully treaded tyre is about six litres per second at 100km/h. That’s 24 litres every one second so you can quickly see why we are constantly reminded to slow down.

Tragically we witnessed a single car crash where a driver slid off the road at speed smashing into trees. This situation where the driver made a massive error of judgment could come back to a lack of education, knowledge and awareness.

This was not a planned accident, they never are, total loss of control, maybe tyre pressures too low or poor quality tyres with minimal tread but definitely inappropriate speed for the conditions! Just because the sign posted speed was 100km/h, many drivers think it’s still ok to drive at this legal speed. On the racetrack wet weather is guaranteed to keep the lap record intact. We even change tyres to specially constructed grooved wets for improved grip. But we still slow down adjusting speed, acceleration, braking and cornering to the conditions.

Being a consciously competent driver, knowing your limits and that of your vehicle comes about through knowledge and specialised driver education programs.

You don’t learn these life saving skills practicing your reverse parking techniques.

Ian ‘Luffy’ Luff

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