The Technology That Saved My Life
Jason Chu, Division 1, 5th grade #ws17e-s2d1

The angry wind whipped against our car and the ceaseless rain beat down hard on the windshield. My family and I were driving on a bridge connecting the border of Oregon and Washington. Even though the weather was terrible, traffic was smooth in a single file. The raindrops drummed all over our car. Each splat was bigger than my thumb. The windshield wipers could not wipe fast enough to clear the water. Even headlights of cars could not pierce the thick sheet of rainwater pouring down from the sky.

Suddenly, a white pickup truck in front of us halted without any warning only a few feet ahead. At that moment, I thought a crash into the rear end of the pickup was inevitable. An unfamiliar sound escaped my dry throat. Just as I let out the yelp, Dad jammed hard on the brakes and everyone leaned forward, trapped by tight seat belts. Meanwhile I heard something even more unfamiliar. With loud grinding and clicking noises our car pushed ahead, shook, pushed another inch, shook, and finally came to a full stop. For a moment, I thought the noises meant the car was breaking or cracking. With trembling voice, I asked mom, “What’s that noise?” Mom told me it was called the Anti-Lock braking system or ABS. With ABS, our car was able to come to a sudden stop inches away from the pickup and it did not skid on the extremely wet road. I could not stop pondering about this ABS during that road trip.

Anti-lock Braking System is an electronic system that allows cars to maintain traction and control during braking. When a driver slams on the brake in a stressful situation, wheels lock up and uncontrollable skidding would be likely especially on wet or icy roads. In such emergency, the automated system unlocks the wheels, shortens the braking distance, prevents skidding, and allows drivers to steer the car. Invented by a German firm called Bosch, ABS was first used on Mercedes-Benz in 1978 and grew more and more popular in 1980s and 1990s. In the United States, it became a standard in 2013.

The sky was still dreary and melancholy, filled with dark, heavy clouds that carried loads of water. It seemed as though a massive ocean of water was being dumped from the sky, but our car was a safe haven with the ABS to protect us. Sitting in a car on a road trip far away from home, I did not expect to discover a new piece of technology, let alone a piece of technology that saved my life.
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