This is why we can't have nice things.
The “Drift” mode on the all-new Ford Focus has been met with praise from just about everyone who knows of its existence, but some in Australia aren’t too happy with both it and Ford. News.com.au has a story out about how safety experts are “slamming” the new technology. The issue that these experts and road safety campaigners have is that drift mode can’t be disabled on public roads. They note that the Mustang GT’s line lock function, which most refer to as a “burnout” mode, was disabled for the Australian market because burnouts are illegal Down Under.
But so is drifting! There is a disclaimer that pops up once drift mode is activated, saying that the tech should only be used on a race track. But a disclaimer is easy to ignore, right? “A disclaimer is not going to stop an idiot from trying this on public roads,” so says Harold Scruby, head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia. Indeed, we recently saw one fail video of what looks like a Focus RS losing control in drift mode, although that was shot in Germany, not Australia. So what is the solution to this problem? Scruby thinks that a recall to disable drift mode is in order. Yeah, that doesn’t seem likely. Besides, the penalties for getting caught drifting seem so stiff as to deter dumb behavior.
According to the article, if a driver is caught drifting on public roads the punishment can be as severe as confiscation of the car and a loss of driving privileges for between six to 12 months. Of course that’s not going to stop people from attempting sick drifts, but we think a recall to prevent a problem that doesn’t even exist yet is too extreme. The Focus RS is going to be sold in such limited quantities that an unstoppable wave of teenage drifters descending upon Australia’s city streets and country highways in a wave of chaos reminiscent of “Mad Max” seems unlikely. As much as we like to poke fun at pearl clutchers the reality is that these concerns do have some validity.
“The problem is most people don’t have access to a race track. Without a race track it’s inherently dangerous.” Those words came from professor Brian Owler, the former president of the Australian Medical Association. He’s right in the sense that the Focus RS’ drift mode has little chance of being exclusively used on race tracks. How many people who buy this car are going to track it consistently, if ever? Probably not many. Ford has to know this and if anything it should work with Australia’s worry warts on a public awareness campaign regarding the proper use of drift mode. That meet-in-the-middle approach is much cheaper than a recall and would allow Ford to properly educate drivers about the proper use and potential dangers of its new tech.