News: 3-point safety belt turns 50 this year

nils bohlin

The 3-point safety belt turns 50 years old in 2009 after first being fitted to a Volvo back in 1959.

It has been estimated safety belts have saved more than a million lives so far and they will continue to save over a hundred thousand lives a year.

The three point belt was invented by Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin and fitted to 1959 model PV544 and Amazon 120s sold in Nordic countries from that year.

If you are wearing a safety belt, your chances of surviving a collision improve by 50 percent. The three-point belt is and will remain the car’s most vital safety detail. However, even more lives could be saved if belt usage increased.

“What makes the three-point belt unique is that it improves safety for all types of occupants, in all types of accidents. In both the front and the rear seats. One often talks about the protective effect in head-on collisions, but the belt also helps prevent the car’s occupants from being thrown out of the car in a rollover, for instance,” says Hans Nyth, head of the Volvo Cars Safety Centre.

It is the safety belt’s ability to keep the occupant in the seat that is of crucial importance. A massive 75 percent of people thrown out of cars in accidents die in the process. All told, the belt reduces the risk of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions by about 50 percent.

It is impossible to put an exact figure on the number of lives the three-point belt has saved since the 1960s – there are no globally coordinated traffic-safety statistics. Estimates put the figure at just over a million lives. And many times that number have avoided serious injuries thanks to the safety belt.

In Europe, the safety belt is estimated to reduce road fatalities by 40 percent every year. Within the EU in 2005, an estimated 11,700 drivers survived road accidents specifically because they were wearing safety belts. The figure for Germany alone was 2000. Had these drivers not been using the belt, the number of fatalities in Germany that year would have doubled.

Corresponding estimates for the USA in 2004 show that safety belt use saved 15,200 lives and resulted in society saving 50 billion dollars in costs.

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Blogs: Australia’s oldest boyracer

I was the unlucky receiver of a speeding fine on my way home from a sunny holiday recently. A fairly routine stop in a small town, the officer gave me the option of making a dick of myself by asking “Can you give me a good reason why you were travelling at that speed”. I chose not too, his hat was on, pad was out, and I could tell for him it was business time. The transaction was too easily completed. But I’m not the only one to have a holiday brush with the law.

Over in Melbourne, the local Police have recently foiled possibly the oldest boy racer in Australia. John Belfield the 78-year-old Australian man with the need for speed had his car impounded after being caught racing at 170 km/h on a winding road east of Melbourne on New Year’s Day. It turns out Grandpa John, is a member of a local Nissan-Datsun sports car club. The club was holding a social run for its members on January 1, and the senior citizen was in attendance with his Nissan Pulsar.

When provoked during the drive by a 36-year-old fellow club member in a Nissan Skyline, Belfield couldn’t restrain himself and decided to ‘have a go’. While it isn’t clear who had the lead when the police intervened, the local fuzz did collar both drivers and promptly impounded their cars based on Victoria’s new “hoon laws” (a series of laws that covers certain types of speeding, burnouts, and street racing). According to police records the senior citizen is infact the oldest person to have his car impounded under the law. When Belfield was given the option of making a dick of himself he did, stating that he was a skilled driver who races cars. I’m just glad I didn’t think of that.

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News: Cadillac no longer coming to NZ

Cadillac CTS fq

If you thought the global economic slowdown currently affecting the automotive couldn’t reach us down here in NZ, you thought wrong. Luxury American brand Cadillac is no longer coming to New Zealand and Australia as previously planned (click here for news item). GM Holden chairman Mark Reuss made the announcement Thursday, Reuss said it was a “very painful decision” for him to make but he believed it was the right one given the current economic climate.

While not dismissing the proposal completely of the GM Premium Brand coming to NZ and Australia he said it would be indefinitely delayed. Given the current market conditions, he felt the timing was wrong to introduce Caddy, which would be a niche brand here, into our tough market. He said that he had spoken to the three New Zealand dealers who had taken up the Cadillac brand and all had agreed with his decision. That comes as no big surprise, since it’s likely none of them had great interest in seeing shiny, expensive Cadillacs collecting dust on their lots.

General Motors will now turn its attention to strengthening the Holden brand in NZ while it waits and hopes for the market to rebound. As for Cadillac, the door’s been opened now, but clearly only when economic conditions are right.

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News: Mazda 3 gets stop-start technology

Even brands with sporty pretensions are becoming concerned with their fuel economy and emissions, a point that is currently evidenced by Mazda’s intent to launch start-stop technology on its newest 3. The 3 has proven to be the Japanese brand’s most popular model. Before the end of 2009, Mazda plans to add the eco-friendly technology to both the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines. Strangely the car’s optional diesel variants which are significantly more fuel efficient than their petrol counterparts, will miss out.

Those that care little of fuel savings will be happy to welcome the MPS version of the 3 hatchback that is scheduled for release in March at the Geneva Motor Show. A twin-clutch DSG transmission is also reportedly in the works for the 2010 model year, so Mazda are strongly positioned to last out the economic downturn .

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News: Porsche releases latest GT3 RSR

Porsche GT3 RSR fq

Porsche has unveiled the latest iteration of its GT2-class racing car, the GT3 RSR. Visually, the biggest difference for ’09 is up front, with a substantially louvered bonnet. It’s there because the Porsche’s radiator ductwork has been redesigned so as to accommodate the racer’s optional A/C system. Aerodynamic tweaks include a rear wing angle that’s fully adjustable. The brakes and wiring harness contribute to lighter weight, and inside the pilot gets a new multifunction display. There’s also a cleverly revised supply system that allows for an infinitely adjustable blink rate for the front lights. That makes for easy night time identification when the car pits. The oil filler has also been relocated for easier access.

What about the power? Displacement for the rear-mounted six-cylinder jumps from 3.8 to 4.0 litres, and it pumps out 450 horsepower at 7,800 rpm. Torque is rated at 430 Nm at 7,250 rpm. The rev limiter kicks in at 9K, and Porsche says that the new car’s torque curve is better-optimised than the outgoing car’s. The new car will become a common sight in the Le Mans series on both sides of the Atlantic, as Porsche resumes its annual battle with Ferrari in sports car racing. It could be all yours for just €380,000 ($935,000 NZ).

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News: Hamann creates the X6 Tycoon

Hamann tycoon fq

German tuner Hamann seems to love using cheesy names for its over-tweaked vehicles. There’s the Volcano based on the McLaren SLR, the 911 Turbo dubbed Stallion, the Cayenne-based Cyclone, and even an F430 called the Black Miracle.

The latest to be added to the Hamann lineup is the Tycoon, a widebody version of the BMW X6 that gets power upgrades as well as some interior appointments. The body kit itself consists of a new front bumper and front and rear flared guards that provide the extra width, plus side skirts, a three-part diffuser and roof spoiler. 23-inch alloy wheels with a polished lip complete the blinged-look of the exterior.

Under the hood, Hamann boosts the twin-turbo inline-6 in the xDrive35i model to 360 horsepower, and a performance package for the diesel engine is available as well.

Interior additions include carbon fibre trim, aluminum accessories, and a new three-spoke steering wheel.

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News: Sign up to the Car and SUV newsletter and be in to win!

Sign up to receive the Car and SUV e-newsletter, and be in to win a digital camera.

Fancy winning yourself a Ricoh digital camera with 2GB memory card and rechargeable battery kit worth over $250? All you need to do is signup to the Car and SUV e-newsletter and you are in the draw. It’s that easy.

To register for your favourite magazines e-newsletter visit:

The winner of the Ricoh digital camera will be drawn on March 17, 2009.

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News: Open-source car to debut at Geneva Motor Show

EDAG light car fq

What is an open-source car you could ask? According to German design firm EDAG, it’s a concept car for the future that any firm is able to refine as it sees fit. Still make no sense? Well its a futuristic promotional vehicle really, and the first version of the Light Car – Open Source is set to debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show in March. The basic bones of the concept are suitably space-age, with a structure made from basalt fibre, which is like carbon fibre but cheaper and fully recyclable, and organic LEDs under the glass-like outer skin that can be shaped any way the user pleases. Those LEDs make up the interior cockpit, headlamps and the entire rear hatch, which can be used as a billboard to communicate with other motorists.

What would powers the car? Electricity, of course, and the Light Car uses a set of hub-mounted electric motors and a lithium ion battery pack that’s said to allow for a range of 150 kilometers.

What is an open-source car you could ask? According to German desi ...

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