OPINION

    As chief executive officer of CarExpert.com.au, I’m proud of the recent articles we have written regarding the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), the ‘safety authority’ in Australia.

    The irrelevance of the organisation alongside its European equivalent is clear for all to see.

    Comments that ANCAP CEO, Carla Hoorweg, made to CarExpert founder Paul Maric saddened me. Why? Let’s first recap her statement:

    “At a time when the road toll has reached an all-time high, this kind of reporting is inappropriate and insensitive to those people who’ve lost loved ones or been seriously injured on our roads,” she said.

    I’m a direct ‘victim’, like many Australians, of the sad state of road safety and the terrible toll car crashes have on families.

    My world changed forever with the sudden deaths of friends and family – who ended up as part of the cold, hard statistics for the ‘road toll’.

    I’m actually quite disappointed by the comments Ms Hoorweg made, and believe them to be quite ignorant.

    I lost my hero, my big brother Ashley Rielly, to a car crash when I was 15. A year later I lost my best mate, Daniel Stonehouse.

    Ashley died in 1990, when he was just 21 and excitedly preparing to to move to Barcelona in Spain.

    As a carpenter, he and a mate were excited to move over and work on the 1992 Olympic preparations, a dream opportunity for a young person.

    But his dreams were sadly cut short in a few short moments.

    It was not due to the Nissan 260Z they were driving, but because his ‘best mate’ – who was allegedly both intoxicated and speeding – hitting a roundabout at pace and getting airborne into the local shopping centre car park sign.

    Everyone in the vehicle walked away except my brother and hero, Ashley, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Just a year later my best mate, Daniel Stonehouse – an up-and-coming AFL star – went to a gathering I was supposed to attend with him.

    He caught a ride home with someone who was both underage and over the limit, but never made it home.

    Instead, his trip ended with the car slamming at 160km/h into a tree that had stood the test of time.

    The deep sadness that comes with losing irreplaceable family and close friends lives on forever with me and, of course, with all the people who loved them.

    Ashley and Daniel’s deaths had nothing to do with the vehicle, or the on-paper safety rating of those vehicles.

    Both incidents, like the majority of the road deaths in Australia each year were caused by the driver’s behaviour.

    That’s why ANCAP’s approach is so frustrating. Yes, there is a huge benefit to having safer cars on our roads.

    Yes, the technology it’s advocating can help cut down on crashes, which can only be a good thing.

    But it’s way too simplistic to argue that questioning its methods, as CarExpert has done, is “inappropriate” or “insensitive”.

    It’s also incorrect to say, as Ms Hoorweg did, that the “road toll is at an all-time high”.

    Beyond that, weaponising the hundreds of people who’ve died on our roads this year to justify an outmoded regime, which is more focused on repackaging European safety ratings to generate headlines than it is on actually testing cars, is mystifying.

    I know what it’s like to lose a loved one far too soon on the road. No-one should have to deal with it.

    The fact a taxpayer-funded body responded to questions about how effectively it’s executing its function with a swipe at our character, rather than the slightest hint of introspection, says everything you need to know about what’s wrong there.

    Wake up, ANCAP.

    It’s time to stop playing political games to secure funding and focusing on headlines and point-scoring by villainising vehicles that don’t earn its five-star rating because of a bloated (and growing) list of mandatory features that don’t actually make cars safer.

    It’s time to work on taking more effective action to save families, like mine, that have been forced to deal with loved ones dying far too young on our roads.

    Damon Rielly

    Damon Rielly is the CEO of CarExpert.com.au

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