Safety is more than a rating

I’ve thought long and hard about how I write this, so I don’t send any mixed messages.

So, let’s be clear from the off — five-star rated cars, seatbelts, airbags, brake assist, lane-departure systems and all the other safety features in modern cars are a good thing. All are designed to reduce the trauma for those involved in a crash, or to stop it from happening at all.

I have started to question if we are becoming lazier and too reliant on those systems to keep us driving straight, and help us brake quickly if needed.

I watch the marketing of new cars. I get it. Buy a five-star rated car and you are safer than ever if involved in a crash, but I have started to wonder whether this is breeding an attitude of ‘‘I’ve done my bit for road safety; I’m in a five-star rated car’’.

Question for those who are lucky enough to have one: would you drive any differently if you had a one-star rated car?

If we are being honest, we all probably would.

What would you do differently? Be more observant, drive slower, give a bit more room to the car in front? So why don’t we do that in your five-star rated car, and be even safer on our roads?

Let’s turn this around. Have you ever thought about what you might hit in a crash — another vehicle that isn’t five-star rated?

What if it is your fault, and that other driver who was doing everything right and as safely as they could was hit by you?

They are now at a greater risk of being seriously hurt or maybe killed. What if you make a mistake (we all do) and it is a person or cyclist you hit, because you just relaxed too much when driving and relied on all those safety systems too much?

Buying a five-star rated car does not make you a better driver.

You can argue that it doesn’t even make you a safer driver. What it does do is what it is designed to do, and that is protect people in that car more than if they were in a lower-star rated car. Yes, it does have extra protection for pedestrians or cyclists, but at what speed does that extra protection become obsolete?

Last question I pose for you to think about: virtual family have a nice new five-star rated car. Let’s say it’s worth $40,000. It is a nice new car.

I often see virtual dad out washing it — it’s his pride and joy. A son of that family has just got a learner’s licence and the family manage to buy a three-star rated car for $5000. Which car should the learner drive?

Fact: young learner drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash. In the Waitaki District, males under 25 are more likely to be hurt in a crash than any other age/gender group.

Should they be in the three-star safety rated car? This is something we have always done, bought the learner a cheap runaround so they can learn.

What if that learning costs them their life and the five-star rated car is still on the driveway?

Time to drive safer, Waitaki.