Sunday, 9 September 2007

Urban 4x4 Drivers & the "False sense of security" factor

I know that urban 4x4s divide people into 2 VERY distinct groups - those who love em, and those who think they should be banned.

Well I can't stand them. They are an outward sign that the person who has bought them is greedy, selfish and has an inferiority complex. The problem with all of these things is that the symptoms they produce are pretty bad for other people on the road.

They are the car of the bully and the bullied.

The bully feels their own inferiority and feels the need to impose himself on the road, the traffic situation and other people. The bullied feels that everyone else is doing that to them, so they get in their 4x4 and try to fight back - the effects of both are exactly the same.

I often meet people, mainly ladies (sometimes their husbands) who justify their 4x4's from a safety point of view. Unfortunately this is a foolish argument.

The safety of a 4x4 is a myth.

Anyone outside the 4x4 when it impacts is much more likely to be killed or seriously disabled. This can be easily seen when you stand a 7 year old in front of the bonnet of (for example) a mini and a range rover. If you then imagine that both cars are travelling at 20 mph you can see vividly the problems. The mini will bump them over - possibly breaking a leg on the bumper, or hurting their head on the (impact designed) bonnet. The Range Rover (even without the addition of bull bars) will probably break their hip then run them over.

And the fact is - the height of the 4x4 moves everyone outside the vehicle out of the line of sight of the driver - especially young children to the rear of the car.

Other drivers are just as much at risk - if hit by a 4x4 it will ride up on top of the "normal" car crushing the inhabitants. The steel ladder chassis will crush anything it hits.

The really strange fact is that statistically you are actually 1% more likely to be killed or permanently disabled if you are INSIDE the 4x4 in a collision. This is because of the instability of 4x4's (hit a motorway barrier in a normal car - you bounce off, in a 4x4 - you go over the top and wind up in the middle of the other carraigeway on your roof!), and the fact that though they feel like normal cars, they don't drive like them. A 4x4 can often get amazing grip in the worst of conditions due to their design, but in these conditions there is no improvement in braking over a normal car.

The salesmen will tell you how amazing the brakes are, and will go into great detail about how technologically advanced they are, which is true - they have to be. The problem comes when you actually expect your Rangie Sport to react like a BMW - it can't. Impossible. 3 tonnes of agricultural machinery will not stop in the same way. It also won't warn you of the fact. In the BMW you'll notice the slight wheel slip on the bad road surface - it'll make you nervous and you'll slow down. In the 4x4 you won't notice it until you hit the brakes and suddenly find the ABS kicks in earlier because it simply doesn't have enough grip to hold the car. Though having ABS on a car will help it slow more quickly in real life conditions - having a lighter car going slower will stop you in half the distance!

The "False Sense of Security" Factor:

This is the worst bit. We've all been in one - how nice does it feel to be so high above the hoi-polloi, in such a beautifully engineered machine - the sense of superiority, the solidity, the view so far ahead. The way it gets grip even on wet and slippery country lanes, keeps pulling hard through heavy rain.

And that is the downfall - it feels like it's handling perfectly, just like a car - a good one at that, but it won't stop, and when it hits something we're all in trouble.

There needs to be a new licence category for vehicles which weigh over 1.5 tonnes.

People need to understand the huge differences these vehicles introduce to the way you should drive them.

No comments: