Do you ever wonder what the guys who get interviewed on the news about Road Safety actually drive? Well its not a Korean Built Holden Barina – its a Subaru Outback (five-star ANCAP-rated). Director of the Monash University Accident Research Centre, Professor Ian Johnston is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost experts on road safety.
After a career spanning 40 years devoted to transport safety, Dr Johnston carefully evaluated the type of vehicle to buy after decades in an employer-provided car.
“I wanted a car that embraces the latest developments in both active and passive safety, but is within a reasonable price range,” he said.
“Many vehicles offer curtain side impact airbags and advanced crumple zone technology, but All-Wheel Drive, combined with a relatively low centre of gravity, and the availability of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) on the Outback were key factors in my decision.”
The Subaru range has been offering All Wheel Drive drive-trains for sometime, a simple system which pushes power through all four wheels reducing under/over steer whilst providing better handling and road safety.
Dr Johnston believes that whilst the automotive industry is ahead of the regulatory regime in the application of safety innovations, he does not feel that enough is being done to promote safety to the consumer. He advocates government and corporate car fleet buyers specify safety features as an integral part of the purchase process, if only because of their “obligations” under their occupational health and safety duty of care.
“Vehicles form part of the workplace for a whole range of people, from tradesmen, company representatives and executives driving between meetings, to the obvious group of taxi and delivery drivers.
“In Australia the proportion of people driving fleet vehicles is very high and as such fleet buyers should be obligated to specify safety.”
It is true that many government and private fleet buyers have a choice of either a Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore as their work cars, and whilst this is great for the Australian Automotive Industry in terms of local sales, it leaves the workers with limited choice.
Dr Johnston says many have been emotionally affected by the road toll – (he lost a sister-in-law in a cycling accident). As a result, there is a market for safety, but not enough is being done to develop it.
“Governments, organizations like mine and the automotive industry have a responsibility to better highlight the benefits of safety features,” he added.
Manufacturers like Subaru do tend to sell their cars with a heavy emphasis on safety, however more can be done to promote the ANCAP score on vehicles.