Toll’s cold shoul­der

Se­cret tests could help cut the road toll, writes Neil Dowl­ing in New Zealand

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THE fight against the road toll has moved to a re­mote moun­tain in the snow-capped South­ern Alps of New Zealand.

It’s the lo­ca­tion for a top-se­cret test fa­cil­ity where many of the world’s ma­jor mak­ers go to tune the sin­gle biggest weapon in the fight against deaths on the road — a com­put­erised anti-crash sys­tem.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol is re­garded as the biggest sin­gle safety break­through since the three-point safety belt, just over 40 years ago, and it’s one of the ma­jor fo­cuses for com­pa­nies such as BMW.

The Ger­man brand uses the South­ern Hemi­sphere Prov­ing Ground — once known sim­ply as the Snow Farm — be­cause it al­lows year-round test­ing on the slipperiest sur­faces in the busi­ness: ice and snow.

The fig­ures for the global road toll are fright­en­ing, with more than 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple dy­ing ev­ery year in ve­hi­cle-re­lated in­ci­dents.

That num­ber is fore­cast to rise by 67 per cent by 2020, de­spite the best ef­forts of car­mak­ers and gov­ern­ments, which means the an­nual toll will be more than two mil­lion in less than 10 years. That’s 5479 peo­ple killed ev­ery day.

These peo­ple are not old or in­firmed or hap­less statis­tics of a Sun­day drive gone wrong, ei­ther, be­cause car crashes are the main killer of peo­ple aged 10-24.

Apart from the per­sonal and com­mu­nity loss of these peo­ple, global ve­hi­cle deaths are es­ti­mated to cost about $600 bil­lion a year.

Safety ini­tia­tives out­lined by the United Na­tions are in­tended to re­duce fa­tal­i­ties by 60 per cent within 10 years — ef­fec­tively mean­ing no in­crease from to­day’s death rate.

Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol has al­ready had a huge im­pact, with fig­ures re­flect­ing a 36 per cent re­duc­tion in fa­tal­i­ties in cars fit­ted with the sys­tem.

It uses a range of sen­sors and a car’s

Top se­cret: anti-crash sys­tems are tested in the South­ern Alps. Pic­tures: Simon Darby

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