Wednesday 18 January 2017

How our children can often be the best safeguards against speeding

But revolutionary ISA technology should be on every new car, our RSA expert claims this week

Published 17/02/2016 | 02:30

A speed sign.
A speed sign.

It never ceases to amaze me just how insightful children can be. After collecting my little fella from school recently he asked me what was the fastest you were allowed to drive in Ireland.

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I replied: "120kmh, but only on a motorway."

"And what's the fastest speed a car can do?" he asks next. "240kmh" I said. You can see where this is going. He wanted to know why a car is able to go so fast when the speed limit won't let you drive that fast. He had a point. He also had me stumped. I couldn't answer his question. He is right though. Why do car speedometers display a top speed of 240kmh when there isn't a hope of ever doing that kind of speed in this country? Doesn't make sense.

The pester power of children is an effective tool when it comes to keeping our roads safe. It's the main ingredient in our 'Seatbelt Sherriff' campaign and in our household. There is an LED electronic speed sign about a kilometre from home that displays your speed every time you pass it. Whenever I've the two children on board, I can see them in the rear view mirror straining to get a view of the speedometer. The speed limit is 50kmh. If the sign clocks you going over 50kmh it flashes your speed in red. Between 45kmh and 50kmh the numbers are displayed in static red, lower than that it's shown in amber numerals.

If I pass that speed sign and the numbers are displayed in static red, well from the reaction in the back seat, you'd think I'd just driven past it at motorway speed. It doesn't matter if I try to explain that I was under the speed limit, as far as they were concerned the numbers displayed were in red and to them that's bad.

So thanks to the two road safety enforcers in the back seat of my car I now have to pass that speed limit sign and make sure the speed limit displayed is shown in amber, or I'll get disapproving 'tut tut daddy' from the back seat.

From personal experience those signs are effective. In some countries, if you don't have children of your own to shame you into reducing your speed, they come complete with a picture of a frowning child looking down at you as you pass. Research would suggest that they can reduce speeds at their location by up to 18pc and are popular in the vicinity of schools.

Wouldn't it be really useful if you had that kind of technology in the vehicle itself? Well it's here and hopefully will become standard on all vehicles. It called Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology. It's not a speed limiter, or cruise control setting. This technology reads the speed limit in a particular area and keeps the car to that speed limit. No more worrying about breaking the speed limit.

Not surprisingly ISA is being described in road safety circles as a game changer. A recent survey by road safety charity Brake showed that two-thirds of drivers in the UK would like to have ISA in their car to help prevent them speeding while driving.

The survey also found that half the drivers who wanted ISA were willing to have it fitted in the vehicle so that it could not be overridden, while the other half were more interested in an over-ridable form of the system. Several vehicles already on the market have this technology.

Trials have predicted that over-ridable ISA could reduce road deaths by 21pc and mandatory ISA could reduce deaths by 46pc. Either way it's something that more car manufacturers should embrace as standard.

The EU has a role to play too. There hasn't been an update of safety requirements for new vehicles since 2009. The EU has an opportunity to address this by making over-ridable ISA a mandatory requirement in new rules to be announced later this year. Some of our MEPs have been vocal in calling for the EU to include ISA in the new standards. Let's hope the EU is listening.

Indo Motoring

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