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Road Safety Campaign informs careful drivers

Road Safety Campaign informs careful drivers

There’s a 35% increase in road departure accidents in cars with ABS brakes according to research by Australia’s Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), 2004. For years this statistic has confounded road safety authorities

The cause of these accidents appears to be drivers being taken by surprise when they first experience the pulsing sensation ABS (anti-lock breaking system) makes when it comes into operation. The function of ABS is to prevent the vehicle from skidding in heavy or slippery braking situations. Careful drivers are less likely to have experienced maximum braking situations and therefore would be unfamiliar with how ABS brakes feel in emergencies

The RACV (Australia’s AA) who commissioned the research says, “Anti-lock brake systems are an affordable and worthwhile safety feature, but drivers are crashing because they are unfamiliar with the operation of ABS”. See attached (26 Feb 2006)

Drivers who are taken by surprise when they first feel the pulsating brake pedal are often releasing the brakes thinking something is wrong or their tyres are losing grip. Many who have learnt to drive before the days of ABS will attempt to modulate their braking pressure (“pumping the brakes”). When this happens approaching a corner, for example, in a car with ABS, it won’t slow down and may fail to take the corner

Land Transport NZ alerts drivers on their website with the advice: Pumping or easing off the brakes, which good drivers do to avoid skidding, stops ABS working Do you know if your car has ABS brakes? Do you know what they do? Many drivers don’t

ABS brakes prevent skidding during heavy braking by applying and releasing braking force many times per second to prevent the wheels from locking up. This can be felt as a pulsating feeling through the brake pedal and often a thumping noise as well

Fortunately most drivers instinctively apply more pressure the more they need to stop, allowing the ABS to work as its designed to, preventing skidding and therefore retaining steering control of the car. However these drivers are more likely to lose control under brakes if driving in a vehicle without ABS

Pumping the brakes can be a fatal error in a vehicle fitted with ABS, as pointed out by Land Transport New Zealand, just as easily as slamming on the brakes too hard in a vehicle without ABS. The problem is that some cars have ABS and some don't and many drivers don't know one way or the other

Clearly the solution to this problem is simply warning people of the danger - which is simply not knowing whether the car they are driving has ABS or if it doesn't

Careful, well-informed drivers are more likely to know if their own car has ABS brakes and know how they work to prevent accidents, according to Mr. Hunt of Dashlite NZ. However, they are not sure how to proceed if they find themselves in a heavy breaking situation and the ABS activates. “Its like Russian Roulette ”, said Mr. Hunt. “most of us don't really know how our car will respond if we have to hit the brakes. Those who get it wrong in dangerous situations crash because they were unaware of what to do when ABS engages”

There is a clear opportunity to address this specific cause of accidents. Drivers should make themselves aware of whether or not their car has ABS brakes. Furthermore, many accidents can be avoided by informing drivers of how to use this safety feature, or if they are driving a car without it, how to avoid the brakes locking whilst braking heavily

Dashlite NZ is using it’s rechargeable torch to help spread the ABS message. The torches are specially printed with either “WARNING vehicle ABS equipped” or “WARNING vehicle not fitted with ABS”. The car accessory is available from the Dashlite website Dashlite is a recharging compact torch, which lives in the dashboard cigarette lighter socket where it recharges. The ABS Aware Dashlite attracts interest from passengers and therefore questions about ABS. Dashlite NZ asserts that awareness and discussion about braking technology will contribute to safer roads and decreased road-toll


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