Good motoring
Dashboard dunces
H. Kishie Singh 

Some years ago a very large section of society around the world was relegated to the ‘computer-illiterate’ category. There is a good chance in today’s world you may be a ‘dashboard dunce’.

In the good old days, the cars were simple, uncomplicated and troublesome. That was the only drawback. These were easily repairable at a reasonable price. You turned on the ignition and two red lights showed up on the dashboard. One was a can of oil, the other was a battery. That’s it!

Today’s cars are trouble-free, not at all simple and quite complicated. To upgrade the level of confusion, no one bothers to read the driver’s handbook. It is entirely possible that the dashboard symbols, which are meant to be an aid to good and safe motoring, could be detrimental to the health of your car. If you don’t understand the symbol, what good does it do? Counterproductive is the word.

So far, dashboard lights commonly inform drivers about the condition of the battery, low oil pressure and an engine heating up. Of course, the fuel gauge is important. Despite adequate warning for low fuel, it is possible to see a ‘dashboard dunce’ stranded on the side of the road.

Britania Rescue, a firm providing a breakdown service in England, conducted a survey, interviewing over 2000 drivers. The revelations are quite startling. It revealed that more than 52 per cent of drivers cannot correctly identify 16 of the most common symbols.

Only 12 symbol designs are common across all models. Some of these we are familiar with like oil, battery, open door, or key in ignition if you get out of the car or leave the lights on. These are quite simple and easy to comprehend. In some cars, like lights left on or keys left in ignition there is a continuous buzzing sound. So the symbols really don’t matter. The audio warning is sufficient. That’s about as far as the normal understandable symbols go.

Now comes the twist. According to Britania Rescue 98 per cent of drivers cannot understand the lights that appear on their dash board. Nine out of ten failed to recognise the sign for a faulty catalytic converter. Do you know what a catalytic converter is and what is its function?

The Britania Rescue study identified 99 dashboard symbols in 15 of the most popular cars in the U.K. The warning signs varied from one manufacturer to the next. The Nissan Micra has 21 while the Mercedes-Benz has 41.

The moot point is, do they serve a purpose? At least 48 per cent of drivers do recognise a brake warning light, 35 per cent do not understand an airbag alert and 27 per cent cannot differentiate between an airbag alert or seat belt warning. What is the reason for disseminating information no one can comprehend? May be it is the manufacturers giving a message out to the world, "Hello world! Look how smart we are!" There is a rain sensor. In case it rains, the wipers are activated automatically. Even the dumbest ‘dashboard dunces’ will put on the wipers when he sees his windscreen spattered by rain.

Technology is great but it can take the fun out of motoring.

Happy Motoring!