Arrival of gizmos sees departure of good driving sense

Remember when you had to wind up car windows? Had to reach out to change the angle of outside mirrors? Crack open a quarter vent for a blast of tepid air on a summer’s day?

There was a time when AM radios and heaters were optional and “safety” was an extra pillow for sleeping kids.
Remember the days of polished vinyl seats; Dad changing gears with a stick on the steering column and humming tunes for entertainment while Mum wrestles with a recalcitrant paper map?

Now there’s air-conditioning and airbags, cruise control and computerised maps. Cars are quicker, quieter and safer; which in turn, it could be argued, has numbed driving senses and given many the idea that driving is a right, not a privilege.

Authorities around the country saw a spike in road deaths last season so maybe it’s not all about speed and speed cameras –  a fixation in some quarters – after all?

Maybe there’s an attitude problem, educational issues? Maybe too many comforts and gizmos in today’s vehicles?

So here are a couple of ideas:
Scrap meaningless slogans such as “Every K over is a killer”. Get those camera vans moving, let people see police patrolling roads.  
Adjust some country speed limits, or at least allow police some discretion –120km/h on many country roads in a modern car in good weather is much safer than the mandated 100km/h on a wet road in an old Magna.  
Maybe offer some carrots instead of waving big sticks; some recognition of good driving practices.
Speaking of practice, why isn’t Driving a high school subject?  At least tighten up learners’ skills’ tests. Yes, that may cost kids/parents more, but few quibble about swimming lesson fees.
Let ’em out on a damp road in an old underpowered, under-tyred commercial ute to fathom some idea of car control without electronics.

“Maybe offer some carrots instead of waving big sticks to recognise good driving practices”

Understand the mechanical forces involved in driving a car and better understand road etiquette.
Much of this road rant was brought on by an outing in a LandCruiser ute, this one a high-priced GXL version at $66,490 with air-conditioning a $2761 option (but electric windows thrown in). This is one tough truck with 4.5-litre turbo diesel V8 producing 151kW and 430Nm of lugging torque from 1200rpm.

It’s a load-carrying, 3500kg-towing four-wheel drive with old-style motoring nuances.

But it now has five airbags, steers better and the five-speed gearbox has been reworked to cruise a tad smoother and quieter.

There’s decent stereo, cloth seats and floor carpet for the GXL. It’s an easy drive and a top off-roader even allowing for the front track (the width between the wheels) being wider than the rear, which could be an issue in mud or sand.

Step back to the Workmate version and it’s back to our basics. Wind-up windows, vinyl all through and lock-it-yourself.

LandCruiser utes bring a smile to drive. A touch of old-school motoring reminds us to drive the road, not just the vehicle. Thanks Toyota.