Phantom traffic jams
We’ve all been there… sat on the motorway… slowly crawling along and peering ahead to see what’s causing the holdup. Then, as if by magic, the traffic starts moving again and you’re quickly zooming along wondering what the problem was. That’s a phantom traffic jam. Not caused by a breakdown or an accident, but often by a single driver touching their brakes after edging too close to the car in front.
The looming brake lights cause the driver behind to touch their own brakes, and the driver behind them brakes a little harder. Then a few hundred metres down the road, the entire lane grinds to a halt and the jam quickly stretches back for miles. The good news is that smart motorway speed restrictions during busy periods reduce the likelihood of these phantom traffic jams. So, although you may feel frustrated that you’re limited to 50mph instead of 70mph, the smoother traffic flow will help you get where you’re going a whole lot quicker.
Automatic Emergency Braking
Many new cars now come with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) - a smart technology that monitors the road ahead using cameras, radar and/or LIDAR (light detection and ranging). The scanning system acts like an extra pair of eyes continuously watching the road ahead, never blinking, never distracted. And the automatic braking system acts like an extra foot hovering over the brake pedal, never tired, never resting.
When the AEB senses an approaching collision threat, it applies the brake if the driver fails to act. That could mean steadily slowing the vehicle to reduce the chances of a collision occurring, or full-power braking to reduce the speed of the impact. Either way, it’s a great back-up to our own accept responses.
Rear wheel drive versus front wheel drive
With the engine at the front, and the power sent to the rear via a drive shaft, RWD cars benefit from a more balanced weight distribution, which means they generally handle better than FWD cars. But the flipside is that in wet conditions, without the weight of the engine pressing down on the drive wheels, RWD cars can be prone to a loss of traction. And in snow, they can become undriveable.
Front-wheel-drive cars are generally lighter - because they don’t need a hefty driveshaft. And with the weight over the drive wheels, the tyres have better traction in slippery conditions. The downside is that the front wheels have two jobs to take care of – powering and steering the car – which means that accelerating while turning sharply can cause loss of grip.