Reader Question: Saaaaaaafety Up – but so are Deaths?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Dana asks: Car registrations are down and so are miles driven per car, unless I am in error. Yet deaths are skyrocketing. Is it nonchalance because people believe that they are totally protected in the new, “safe” cars we drive?

My reply: Deaths are up, but not “skyrocketing.” And yes, I do think it’s partially due to a decline in driver attentiveness and skill inadvertently resulting from the increasing reliance on idiot-proofing cars; i.e., making them “safe.”

I put that word in quotes for ironic effect. “Safe” has come to mean exactly what I wrote about idiot-proofing cars. Expecting technology to compensate for poor/inattentive driving – even to the extent of relieving drivers from having to become proficient at basic things such as parallel parking via automated parallel parking technology.  In my opinion, a person who cannot parallel park a car manually ought not to be entrusted with a 3,500 pound moving object.

Reversing course would be easy enough.

Simply get the government out of the idiot-proofing business. Let the car industry make cars for drivers – and let the “safety” obsessed pay full price for the “safety” features they want but expect everyone else to help them pay for (by making them mandatory).

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Cloverism at work killing people.
    Last night I am in the middle lane of an interstate under construction. Thus uneven pavement between lanes with new pavement, old pavement, and ground old pavement. The person in front of me drifts into the next lane which is not at the same level and then reacts by coming to a near complete stop. Nobody in front. Just stupid inattention followed by just plain stupid. Thankfully I wasn’t rear ended by someone just as inattentive. (I couldn’t change lanes due to traffic).

  2. I have observed that as number of vehicle convenience features increase, driving skills diminish, or at best, are put on “standby” depending on the features of the vehicle involved. Add this to the increasing amount of driver distraction and complacency toward the task of driving an automobile. Add all of that to a greater percentage of other motorists in close proximity doing likewise. Competent driving requires concentration on that “task” specifically. Eating and smoking, things often done while driving, are physical motor skills which do not require concentration and evaluation to perform. Conversation involving a dialog, reading road signs, making directional changes, even reading and comprehending digital heater controls, all require concentration.
    Many drivers have tunnel vision when it comes to any one of these tasks. The easier the vehicle is to operate, the less concentration is devoted to that task, and the driver’s attention wanders elsewhere. But when your vehicle is in motion, the situation is constantly changing at that same speed. Certainly when new vehicle designs limit visibility, information needed to safely maneuver in traffic becomes more difficult to acquire.
    Our motor functions often begin to do things before we think about it, and sometimes before others can react.
    Anticipation of what another motorist may do is a defensive driving skill which takes practice and concentration, or more aptly, situational awareness.
    In short, it is my observation that new vehicle designs and features directly facilitate the lack of situational awareness. In fact, V2V (vehicle to vehicle) is specifically intended to supplement or enhance driver situational awareness . The problem is, anticipation of potential threats and the will to make moral choices regarding those possible outcomes, can only be done by humans. Computers have no free will, no sense of shame, pain, suffering or elation as a result of choices made. Some people, unfortunately, drive like this at times, as well.
    “I am not stopping for traffic in the intersection because my light is green”, or “I’m staying in the right hand lane and blocking ramp access because the left lane is only for passing”. This is how a computer program operates as well.
    On the other hand, we have the ability to prioritize, and to change priorities at will, and as the situation around us changes. This human quality of unpredictability and improvisation is what sets us apart from anything else, and cannot be replicated otherwise. The fallacy of the notion of “artificial intelligence” is that there is no such thing as artificial free will and a sense of right or wrong. Automated transportation is possible, and has been accomplished to a certain degree by railways, but always at the expense of the freedom of choices. The automobile was expressly designed to be a mechanical extension of personal choices and free will. Altering it to perform an automated function would be the equivalent of attempting to convert your bathtub into a television, or an ATM.
    Personal responsibility can not be replace by automation without sacrificing freedom of choice, is society ready to do that? The government certainly believes that is the only solution, do we?

  3. A friend of mine was recently in a pretty bad accident. Someone made a lane change without looking and pushed his (heavily modified) F-250 SuperDuty off the highway at speed. Into a hillside. Then the driver at fault tried to blame my friend and even tried to provoke a fight (which shows just how stupid this idiot is, given the size and fitness of the former Marine he ran off the road). He has a few broken ribs and bruises. His wife went in-between the driver and passenger airbag, contacted the rearview mirror and then the windshield. DK if she was wearing a seatbelt or maybe was wearing it the way some big chested women do, but either way the damage is done. Massive head trauma and lots of lacerations. She’s OK but I’m sure from the pictures I saw has some brain damage (hard to tell with her though, but that’s another issue…), and several broken bones in and around her neck.

    Dry pavement. Sunny day. Light traffic. No mechanical failures. You tell me why this happened.

    • Hi RK,

      A big part of the reason, I bet is the horrendous outward visibility which afflicts almost all modern cars. Very sorry to hear about your friend…

    • Awman that’s insane, sorry they had to go through that 🙁 While behind the wheel I often think about how much I value my dashcam..but ultimately that can’t protect from shit like brain damage caused by assholes not paying attention. I hope your buddy has a good lawyer helping them navigate the claims.. It’s gonna be pretty obvious who was at fault there.


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