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Cheers - AE

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Driving us crazy.

There is no shortage of examples of daft situations created by the tendency of governments to go for knee jerk solutions to what they perceive as pressing problems. As Sir Humphrey Appleby put it, and Yes Minister looks more and more like a documentary as time passes, politicians need activity; it's their substitute for achievement. Admittedly he was talking about a politician wanting to reduce expenditure in the Civil Service, which might well be an achievement rather than just activity, but in general it does seem that being seen to do something is far more important to them than. And so I wasn't particularly surprised to read an article in last months RACV magazine about power restrictions for new drivers (Google HTML version of a PDF is all I could find online - it's the article called "Turbo Discharge" on pages 20-21).
Which car would you be happier to see your 18-year-old P-plater drive for their first foray into solo motoring: a 90kW 1.4-litre car that tootles along minding its own business, or a 184kW 3.2-litre hot hatch with twice the power output, 50% faster acceleration and an award for Australia’s Best Sports Car sitting in its importer’s trophy cabinet? Interestingly, both are variants ofone car: Volkswagen Golf. Not surprisingly, P-platers are barred from driving one of them. Amazingly, the one an 18-year-old can drive without impunity is the 184kW hot hatch.
So in English that's a car with a 120bhp engine being banned to provisional plate drivers while the law is fine with them driving a 246bhp version. Slow car, banned. Fast car, okay. What the fuck?
The Graduated Licensing Scheme, the Victorian Government’s initiative to produce better and safer young drivers, has been a great step forward since its introduction in July last year. RACV has been a major advocate of such a system and has had a great deal of input. But the GLS’s revamp of the high-powered vehicle restrictions on P-platers has provided some alarming anomalies.
Under the new regulations, a P-plater may not drive a vehicle with an engine of eight or more cylinders, a turbo or supercharged engine or an engine modified to improve performance.


Some vehicles under the broad criteria are exempted. Currently these are turbo or supercharged diesel vehicles (without engine performance modifications), and nominated vehicles with low-powered turbo or supercharged engines, including Suzuki Cappucino, Daihatsu Copen and all Smart cars. Also exempt are vehicles used as a part of the driver’s employment and at the request of the employer.
Well that's the first are of stupidity. Presumably that means a P Plater can drive a fucking Lambo if he's being paid to, but not if it's his own regardless of how much insurance he's bought or how responsible he might be. The assumption is that in a fast car he's going to be a dangerous and irresponsible twat. Unless it's for work of course, in which case he'll miraculously transform into a fine, upstanding and trustworthy young citizen until clocking off time. Fucking hell! Who dreams this stuff up?
There are clearly more turbo and super-charged cars not in the ‘high-powered’ cate-gory than those already exempt. The issue is the association of forced induction [which improves] combustion efficiency. While that does enable more power, this in itself does not make a car fast.
It could be argued that there is nothing inherently high-powered about a V8 either, but in practice virtually all V8s in the past 10 years have had performance pretensions, so the restriction is reasonable.
Is it? Why? Again, this is a presumption that they'll drive dangerously. I can understand the concern, and I have to admit that I might have hospitalized or killed myself if I'd had my current car when I was 17. But since a Victorian P Plater could legally drive that too the regulations really don't help much. The reason I didn't is mainly that the Bank Of Mum And Dad only funded something that had the top speed of a continent and pulled like Joseph Merrick in a convent. Oooh, fucking hell, parental and personal responsibility. Can we have that? That okay with you, RACV? For fuck's sake, stop sucking up to pointlessly stupid and presumptive authoritarian government cockwads and fucking stand up for your members.

But back to government stupidity:
Many makers are introducing smaller turbo models which have adequate performance but much improved fuel efficiency. The 90kW entry level Golf, for example, has a five-star ANCAP crash rating and barely enough power to worry a rice pudding, yet it’s prohibited for a P-plater. Perversely, the 184kW Golf R32 is permitted as it does not have a turbo charger. Likewise, placid versions of the very safe Mercedes C-Class and Saab 9-3 are also banned.
Typically the government has been too damn clever for its own good and ended up banning P platers from cars they should, by their own standards, be encouraging the P platers to use. Muh. Muh. Muhhhhh. But I have to return to the issue of presuming they'll be poor drivers, or more so than average. Yes, they probably will be less able to handle a more powerful car but I'm not comfortable with this blanket ban approach. I could write at length on road safety issues both here and in the UK, and I probably will one day, but I do feel that it's another area where the authorities are trying simple solutions to complex problems and, when they don't work, trying more of the same thing that just failed to deliver. But I think the presumption that they’ll be shit before they even start driving is unfair and probably doesn’t improve road safety much, and also suggests that the powers that be lack confidence in the driving test. As for banning the over simplistic approach of banning turbos without looking at how the car actually performs…
The Victorian Government has noted this growing anomaly and in March announced that P platers will be able to apply for exemptions for vehicles.
Oh great. The implied concession that they've fucked up is a good one, but wouldn't have been better to just ditch what is clearly a bad rule and rethink the whole idea?



JuliaM said...

"Amazingly, the one an 18-year-old can drive without impunity is the 184kW hot hatch."

Errr, do they mean 'with impunity'?

Because the other way doesn't make much sense! :)

Angry Exile said...

Probably, yes. I should have chucked a [sic] in there.

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