Whether you’re a learner driving around in a hand-me-down car until you’re a bit more experienced, a 35-year old who has been driving since they were 18 or a commercial vehicle driver making a living by heading up and down the motorways, you cannot underestimate the value of a top quality safety system for your vehicle.
Plenty of manufacturers ensure that their cars, vans and lorries – and even motorcycles – are fitted with the most sophisticated kit that they have developed to help their drivers and riders stay safe on the roads and reduce the risk of accidents. For those that don’t come as standard, there are plenty of Suzuki and Mazda dealers (to give examples) who will fit a variety of systems to the models as optional extras, but they do involve an additional cost at the time of purchasing.
We all know that cars are expensive investments as they are and for many additional packages just aren’t an option. Once they’ve paid for the car and any repairs that need doing before it leaves the showroom forecourt, they need to make sure that it’s taxed and insured, and, if applicable, that they’ve got a good price for their old vehicle and reclaimed any tax or insurance payments that they haven’t used. Only then can they begin to think about doing anything to enhance performance or safety.
The majority of safety systems available on the market are of real benefit to those in the commercial and plant industry, such as HGVs and tankers. These drivers are going along the length and breadth of the country on a daily basis, covering thousands of miles each week and because of that they are most at risk of being involved in an accident. The long, high sides decrease visibility and their size makes them more difficult to manoeuvre than domestic vehicles and bumps and scrapes are common. As are false insurance claims with drivers of already damaged vehicles attempting to get compensation for non-existent injuries and the pre-existing damage to their cars from the drivers of HGVs or the fleet itself.
Seen as an easy target, the “compensation culture” we live in isn’t helped by “criminal gangs” looking to stage accidents involving large vehicles in attempt to claim compensation. Easy money essentially. However the installation of certain safety systems can counter these claims. For example, digital recorders installed in the cab work like the black box on an aereoplane, recording all kinds of data and images that can then be used in court to defend the company or driver against these claims and preventing the insurance fraud from being committed, saving the company thousands of pounds each year and making the investment highly worthwhile and cost-effective.
It’s been proven that the installation of safety systems to individual and fleets of vehicles has reduced the annual cost of insurance premiums. For many the cost of insurance can be so high that they opt to sell their car in favour of public transport or to become a named driver on their partner of family member’s insurance, allowing them to share one car and the costs between them. But by spending the money on safety systems including reversing alarms, (predominantly in the case of HGVs there), and proximity sensors that work using ultrasound techniques, the cost can be reduced because insurers take notice that you’re doing everything you possibly can to prevent and reduce accidents.
To explain a little more about the two devices mentioned, reversing alarms are engaged when the driver selects reverse gear, and a series of sounds are emitted to alert road users and pedestrians to the potential hazard associated with a large vehicle reversing. These alarms can be customized to an extent to give out different kinds of alerts, and there are even “white noise” alarms appearing on the market to take away the shrieking associated with the traditional “beep beep beep” reversing alarm.
The ultrasonic proximity sensors work by giving out waves from the vehicle and bouncing them back off any objects in the immediate vicinity, the shorter the response time, the closer the hazard is to the vehicle.
Another great piece of technology – again of great benefit to fleets of commercial vehicles rather than domestic cars and bikes – is the GPS tracking device. Working in a similar way to a satellite navigation system, they pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle using satellites and report this information back to the fleet manager at the depot. This helps them to establish where their drivers are, the route they’re taking and also to track it down if it has been stolen, preventing “lorry jacking’s.” As a fleet manager it’s key to know where all of your drivers are and how long they’ve been on the road. Similarly it’s important to keep clients happy and if they’re awaiting a delivery or collection they might get angry with the fleet manager when the vehicle hasn’t arrived. With a tracking device fitted to the vehicle the manager can inform the client that they’re on a certain road and certain distance from the destination and explain that there may have been road works or traffic en route.
To many drivers the idea of adding some kind of gadget to their vehicle is either a great idea or a nightmare. Similarly, they tend to think that the term “in-car gadget” relates to either a satellite navigation system or some kind of enhanced stereo, not something that improves fuel economy or security. This is a very common misconception as there are now arguably more in-car gadgets that enhance the all-round driving experience, than there are that either add value to the vehicle or lets you play your music louder.
In many circumstances it’s a case of “spend a little to save a lot”, allowing vehicle owners to invest in top of the range devices that will help them to lower insurance costs, reduce the risk of false insurance claims being made against them and also to reduce the potential for accidents, something all road users will benefit from.
This article was written by UK-based blogger Matt Rawlings, a motoring enthusiast with a passion for cars and motorcycles.