01 March 2010

There’s No Trick to Safety

OUTthere Magazine : Issue 69



Today’s modern 4WD is far removed from early Jeeps and Land Rovers that burst onto the scene in the ‘40s and ‘50s, especially in terms of safety and comfort.

Equipped with an array of handy driver aids, have you even looked at what your urbanized all-wheel-drive can do? Here’s a list of some of the latest tricks now being shipped as standard with modern off-road vehicles and even sedans. You may find these driver aids handy on your next rural adventure, or they may even save your life. Pay attention.

Hill Descent Control system

Originally developed by Land Rover for use in their baby Freelander, this feature makes push-button work of a skill even many experienced 4WDers get wrong. The system is an adaptation of the ABS which monitors each wheel as the vehicle descends a steep, slippery slope, making the descent safely without tricky braking and clutch control from the driver. Piece of cake.

Traction Control (or Anti-Slip Regulation)

Designed for powerful road cars to improve the effectiveness of the Limited Slip Differential, the technology made an easy transference to off-road vehicles. Traditionally 4WDs used a locking differential for traction in the worst conditions, but an ever-ready Traction Control is more user friendly for regular drivers. In short, if a wheel begins to slip, torque is automatically transferred to the wheel with most grip

Electronic Stability Program (ESP)

Much more than just another flashing light on your dashboard, ESP is perhaps one of the most important safety developments for all vehicles, not just 4WDs. Meshed with the computer that controls ABS and TC, ESP will intervene if it detects skidding or loss of steering control. It will bias braking to counteract over- or understeer and possibly avert an accident. Vehicle safety authorities are lobbying hard to make this feature mandatory on all new motor vehicles. Smart.

Rear View Camera or Parking Sensors

One of the greatest dangers with vehicles, particularly high driver position 4WDs, is rear vision, or lack of it. We’ve all backed into something we didn’t see in the mirror and that makes a rear view camera more than a status symbol or toy. Whether you are backing a boat, caravan or just getting out of your driveway, unseen obstacles are a threat – or in some cases, you are the threat. Parking warning sensors or even rear view cameras can also be retro-fitted to most vehicles.

Also on the menu:
  • Brake Assist (BA): Gives you added pedal pressure for an emergency stop
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD): Shortens stopping distances by braking wheels with most traction
  • Hill Start Assist (HSAC): Stop you rolling backwards on a hill start.
All the tricks and gadgets in the world should never replace old-fashioned common sense and safety. Drive within your limits and to the conditions – and pay attention to servicing, tyre condition and brakes.