Title: Point of view: More about safety in cars
Text: Point of view
More about safety in cars
Last month we considered (in Point of view) the state of the American motor car, reporting the developments which have followed a Senate subcommittee's investigation at car safety and the publication of Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at Any Speed.
One of the things we didn't say, however, is that whatever decisions are made in the States about safety regulations will also affect British manufacturers' since all imported vehicles will be expected to conform to any code that is adopted. And for this reason, the Automobile Association's first National Motoring Awards, made last month, are to be welcomed for the encouragement they give to safety in cars.
The awards are divided into two sections, the first of which (the Gold Medal) is given to 'the individual, group of individuals or corporate body who, in the opinion of the committee of the AA, has made the most valuable contribution to the safety, comfort economy, equipment or utility of motoring in Great Britain". The first Gold Medal has been given to the Rover Co "for the high degree of inherent safety incorporated in the design and construction of the Rover 2000". And that car, incidentally, is the onIy British car which Mr Nader considers deserves praise for its safety design.
The AA's second group of awards (Silver Medals) are made for "the most significant improvement to motor vehicIe safety, comfort or economy, primarily in relation to technical progress", and this year Silver Medals have been given to the Dunlop Rubber Co Ltd for its research, particularly into braking problems and the development of the SP range of tyres, to the Ford Motor Co Ltd for its aero flow ventilation system originally introduced in the Cortina and now installed in all its models except the Anglia; and to Ferguson Research Ltd for its work on the four-wheel drive and anti-locking brake system.
This system, which we described in When Life Depends on Design (DESIGN 190/28-35) is now available in one version of the Jensen (which last month received Small and Parkes' Don trophy for increased car safety). And we cannot but echo Mr Nader's regret that Rolls Royce, which after all is intimately connected with aeroplanes (all of which have anti-locking brakes on their wheels), did not adopt Ferguson's system on the Silver Shadow. It also seems curious that Mercedes, which has been looking for an anti-locking brake system to fit to its cars, has never consulted Ferguson. The Silver Shadow has also been criticised in America on the grounds that in a head-on collision at 20 mph, the bonnet, passenger doors and boot lid fly open. If true, this surely does not reflect the high standards laid down by Sir Henry Royce ?
The manufacturers must be congratulated on winning their awards, but the AA also deserves praise for its own contribution to road safety. As well as giving awards for the right reasons, the association is also the sponsor of the road injuries research group of the Institute of Accident Surgery at the Birmingham Accident Hospital, where a lot of useful work has been done in the past five years, and is now responsible for a pilot scheme of school children's pre-driving training at a secondary modern in Harrow. Here, the children receive driving tuition in the school grounds, and are given instruction on vehicle maintenance as well as lectures on road safety, highway markings, etc, given by the AA, the police and others. The scheme is intended to bridge the gap between the road drill given to school children at an early age, and the time they are old enough to drive on the roads. It has already aroused the interest of government ministries, local authorities and the National Road Safety Advisory Council, and is being adopted in a number of Manchester schools.
Besides designing cars for safety, it is also important to educate those who drive them (though we don't subscribe to Stirling Moss's recently reported statement that ''there are no dangerous cars just dangerous drivers''). And in both these fields, the AA is giving a useful lead.