Toll’s cold shoulder
Secret tests could help cut the road toll, writes Neil Dowling in New Zealand
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