Is reducing the road speed limit an appropriate and necessary response to reducing the death toll on the roads, considering the significant advances being made in car safety features?

Essay by braddachap2High School, 11th gradeA+, May 2009

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It has strongly been argued for many years about the speed limits on our roads. This topic is currently being held debated only in Australia, but all around the world. After the recent reductions in road speed limits, many are left wondering whether these reductions are the correct course of action. There is great evidence for both sides of the argument, and this is a possible reason for the increased coverage of the debate.

Recent advances in automobile safety have sparked the argument over the current speed limits. However, twenty five percent of worldwide injury related deaths are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Many different types of driver assistance systems have been placed into cars to prevent deaths and injuries on our roads. Some of the current driver assistance systems include: emergency brake assist, traction control and electronic stability control. Emergency brake assist is commonly used in most new vehicles, and allows maximum braking power to be used in an emergency situation.

The emergency brake assist system interprets the speed and power at which the foot is pressed onto the brake pedal. It can then fully apply the brake if it believes that an emergency stop is trying to be performed. This system can greatly reduce the braking distance of a vehicle when a sudden stop is required. While having this system in place, it may be possible for drivers to exceed the speed limit while still being able to execute an emergency stop correctly. The traction control system is another driver assist system that is used in almost all cars on the roads. This system is designed to control the vehicle when the throttle is applied to a certain extent and the road cannot handle the torque being applied. When this happens, one or more of the vehicles cylinder spark plugs are deactivated. This then means that there is less fiction between the tires and the road. By using this system, there is a less likely chance of losing control while accelerating in a corner. By having this system in place, higher speeds are able to be reached without loss of control in the wheels. Electronic stability control, can also be used to achieve much the same affect. Electronic stability control applies individual brakes to help steer the vehicle.

Along with the driver assistance technology now used in most motor vehicles on the roads today, crashworthiness systems are also being put into place. These systems are put in place to help you when involved in a crash, rather than preventing a crash. Some of the most common systems include: seat belts, airbags and crumple zones. Seat belts are the most common form of system used in vehicles on the roads. It is illegal to be in a vehicle while not wearing a seat belt. Seat belts are designed to reduce injuries by slowing the passenger down at the same speed as the car slows. Seat belts are also designed to stop the passenger from a second impact. Airbags are also very common among vehicles on the road today. Airbags were first designed to prevent interior passengers from hitting hard objects within the vehicle. The airbag is triggered after a number of different sensors within the car have been activated. A nylon bag is then rapidly inflated. This bag reduces the deceleration of the passenger during the crash by absorbing the energy of the passenger. The idea of the airbag is to reduce the passenger’s energy and distribute the deceleration forces across a larger area of the body. Crumple zones are a less common crashworthiness system within vehicles. Crumple zones manage the energy that is absorbed within the front of the vehicle. These zones are also used to prevent the deformation of the passenger section of the vehicle. These zones are very effective and with larger crumple zones, higher impact crashes would be able to be tolerated by the driver and passenger.

Even though all of these car safety features are being put into place in our vehicles on the roads, there are over 1600 deaths each year in Australia alone. Over 22,000 people each year require long term care and treatment because of road accidents. Nearly 40% of deaths of the roads are a result of vehicles hitting roadside objects. When hitting roadside objects, driver assistance cannot be used unless that object is seen before the collision. This means that the only way for roadside accidents to be stopped is by reducing the road speed or implementing more crashworthiness systems within vehicles. For people aged 18 – 25, road crashes are the biggest cause of death. Based on this information we can assume that this is because of the high speeds traveled.

In conclusion, vehicle and road safety is currently very high. Although in Australia there is still an incredibly high amount of deaths on the roads, many of these are because of speeding. Reducing the road speeds is not a necessary response towards reducing the road tolls. Presuming that people stick to the speed limit within the area, then this would reduce the number of fatalities caused on the roads. The current annual road toll is continuing to decrease. Many would suggest that this is because the number of vehicles with driver assist technology is increasing. Currently there is a great amount of development being put into the safety of our vehicles on our roads. It would be irresponsible to reduce the speeds on the roads. If the road speed was decreased, it is estimated that the number of driver who speed on our roads would increase. Advertisements such as “wipe off 5” are also effective in bringing people to stop speeding, which is then leading to safer roads. With more car safety features to be implemented in the future years, Australia can estimate that the road tolls in years to come will only decrease.

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