FLEET IN SAFE HAR­BOUR

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cars Guide Confidenti­al -

JOIN the dots. The road toll is the low­est in 79 years. Cars haven’t been this af­ford­able for 38 years and, as the av­er­age age of the na­tional fleet is get­ting lower, have never been safer. So ve­hi­cles de­serve at least some of the credit for keep­ing more of us alive on the roads.

In the past 12 months, 1157 peo­ple died on Aus­tralian roads and for a lower toll we must go back to 1935. The peak was 3978 in 1970, when there were fewer cars on the road and the pop­u­la­tion was 12.2 mil­lion, a lit­tle more than half what it is to­day.

Gov­ern­ments will no doubt take the credit for re­duc­ing the toll even as speed cam­eras rake in the cash.

In five of the past six years, new-car sales have set records. Most new mod­els have six airbags and sta­bil­ity con­trol (which can pre­vent a skid), which means there is a greater chance your car and those around it can avoid a crash and, if things go awry, you’re likely to be bet­ter pro­tected by airbags.

The adage that we don’t make ’em like we used to is true when it comes to cars. Back in the Kingswood era, cars were de­signed to be strong — and the oc­cu­pants took the brunt of im­pacts.

To­day’s cars crum­ple around you in a smash to min­imise in­juries from rapid de­cel­er­a­tion.

We shouldn’t pat our­selves on the back just yet. The av­er­age age of our cars has dipped be­low 10 years but still trails other de­vel­oped coun­tries — in Ja­pan, Bri­tain and the US, the av­er­age is six to eight years. New cars need to be more af­ford­able so they can fil­ter on to the used mar­ket, within eas­ier reach.

To­day, you can have a brand-new Honda Jazz with six airbags, a five star safety rat­ing and a rear-view cam­era for $14,990. Used-car prices are at 10-year lows — and two- or three-year-old cars will soon be $8000-$9000.

Imag­ine how many more lives a newer, safer fleet could save. The thought of open­ing the mar­ket to used im­ports is dis­turb­ing yet the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at this flawed pro­posal.

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