Let’s face it: the modern world is a fast place. Daily life in the twenty-first century flows at a speed that would be wholly unrecognisable – or feasible – to those who lived and worked in the early part of the twentieth, aided in no small part by the vast advances in technology. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to transport, specifically cars. Time was you had an actual key that unlocked a fully manually operated vehicle; now, it’s all gone a bit Knight Rider, with sensors and voice recognition and in-built computers. However, what often gets overlooked with the sparkly sheen of vehicular advances is the concurrent amelioration of automobile safety.
So it is that the insurance company Allianz and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team set themselves a mission in 2013 and created the ‘Get Street Smart’ campaign, as part of the United Nations’ ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020’. The series of videos began in March this year, following renowned drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton discussing different aspects of the job – how their lives are dependent on the design of the vehicles they operate, as much as their own skills. Topics covered thus far have included seatbelts, reaction time, braking precision, Drag Reduction Systems (DRS), and the impact of weather on tires. What comes across is just how vital the engineers are.
The current video, the eleventh in the series, addresses ‘Unsafe Release’. Here the onus is transferred from driver to pit box team, and their group speed and judgement in making a stop successful, or failing and causing an unsafe release. It’s not just about the fine (which can run to tens of thousands), but about mortality. Viewers have heard from James Vowles, Chief Strategist at Mercedes AMG Petronas, before, but here he describes what can go wrong in the blink of an eye if mistakes are made by external hands and the team release a driver prematurely back onto the track. Scary stuff, yet pertinent for those of us on public roads, too, for we must internalise our own pit crews, as it were, and maintain concentration at all times.
The ‘world’s leading car insurer’, Allianz has ‘its own road safety research institute’: the Allianz Center for Technology (AZT), opened in 1971. It has been a team with Formula One since the millennium, but became official partners in 2008. What better collaboration for highlighting road safety? Indeed, the insurer’s brand is evident in the pit lane, the Safety Car and the Medical Car of F1, and its logo visible throughout the race, specifically on safety implements like seatbelts and Head and Neck Support System (HANS). Concerns over safety have certainly come a long way from the leather caps (now replaced with crash helmets) that racing drivers once wore.
With cars on and off the track becoming faster, and roads more populous with not only motor vehicles but greener bicycles, highlighting the need for such awareness is timely and, hopefully, effective.