How Government Just Made Your Next Car Less Safe

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I recently did a column about the burbling war between the Safety Nazis and the Mileage Mussolinis (see here). Well, here’s the first casualty:

Your safety.

Because your next new car probably won’t come with even a mini-spare – let alone an actual full-size spare tire. The latter has been MIA from all-but-large-luxury cars (and trucks) for years, partially because the available trunk real estate of the typical new car is much less than it was in the past.

But now, as the automakers scramble to find ways – any way – to achieve compliance with the latest round of CAFE federal fuel economy mandates (set to increase to 34.1 MPG by 2016)  the American Automobile Association reports that even even the downsized mini spare is being thrown in the woods in favor of run-flat tires and aerosol cans of Fix-a-Flat tire sealer-inflator (see here). Because even a mini-spare and the flimsy jacking equipment that comes with it amounts to 40 or 50 pounds of extra weight. By removing this weight, the automakers hope to get a fuel economy freebie. Not a big one, mind. But even a half MPG improvement counts toward their CAFE averages – and even better, it can be done at no cost to them.  The “safety” of the car is not affected – at least, not in the way that the government defines “safety.” Removing the spare and jack doesn’t render the car any less crashworthy – so the Safety Nazis are not aroused and the Mieage Mussolinis are propitiated.

Everyone’s happy, right?

Well, you won’t be if you end up with a flat that can’t be fixed with Fix-a-Flat (such as a sidewall puncture or tear). And you can only run so long – and far – on run-flats. Like mini-spares, they are not designed for sustained use. They are designed to let you limp down the road to the nearest tire store – that’s it.

But what if there is no tire store nearby?

Outside of the DC Beltway and other major metropolitan areas, it is possible to find yourself far from a service station – or even a tow truck. What then?

Such a thing is of course beyond the everyday experience of the Urban-Suburban Hive that is home to the “policymakers” who chuck out edicts such as CAFE – hence, it is of no consequence to them.

But it could have real-world consequences for you.

There are cell phones, of course. And “concierge” services such as GM’s OnStar. Neither of which are immediately helpful in the way that being equipped to slap on a spare and get back on the road in 10 or 15 minutes is. Instead, you’re to be left to the good offices of chance.

Hopefully, your cell will get a signal. Maybe they will send a truck.  With luck, it will get to you sometime today.

Meanwhile, you and yours will sit by the side of the road – perhaps a road in a not-pleasant area, perhaps a highway with lots of traffic whizzing past, oblivious drivers at the wheel … and wait.

It’s also worth noting that the tire sealant goo ruins the government-mandated tire-pressure monitors all new cars have (and which you get to pay for, too). And goop-fixed tires can be dangerous to the technician who dismounts the damaged tire from the wheel in order to fix it. So be sure you tell him you used the Fix-a-Flat.

One again, the same soundtrack: Decisions issue forth from Washington. The effects are felt by you and me and other Ordinaries.

Here is a list compiled by AAA of new vehicles sold without a spare tire – even a mini spare. It is a long list. And it is going to increase as we approach 2016 – and the 34.1  MPG fuel economy bar. If you’re considering one of these cars, it might not be a bad idea to buy at least a mini spare (and possibly even a full-size “real” spare) from a salvage yard and toss it in the trunk, for just-in-case. Especially before a long-haul road trip. Like a fire extinguisher, you may never need it – but you’ll be ecstatically  happy to have one on hand if you ever do need it. Just be sure to get a spare (mini or otherwise) that has the correct bolt pattern and will properly fit your car. You can also buy a small bottle jack and lug wrench for about $30 at any auto parts store.

At least for now, it’s not illegal to add these things to a car that didn’t come with them from the factory, courtesy of our favorite pushy Uncle.

 Throw it in the Woods?   

 

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eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  84 comments for “How Government Just Made Your Next Car Less Safe

  1. SojournerMoon
    January 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I can see one problem with sticking your own spare in the car. You will lose what precious little space you have in the trunk (or elsewhere) on today’s cars.

    I’ve noticed a disappointing trend, that I tend to blame on increasing demands for impact safety, of increasing exterior volumes while decreasing interior volumes of cars. It seems that trunks are getting smaller, doors are getting thicker, and airbags are sprouting out of every panel in every direction in the car. And while I applaud the concern over safety, I know it’s costing a lot more money as well as making the cars heavier and less roomy. This includes less room to put a spare tire, even if you wanted to do it yourself. There are several vehicles on the market now that have tire-rim combinations large enough that a full-size spare (large enough to go around the brake calipers) literally would not fit in the trunk. And there may not be a back seat for it, either, even if you were willing to try that.

    If you do sort of the reverse survey of that AAA list and look for new vehicles with full-size spares, about the only ones I can think of are all pickup trucks or truck-based SUVs, and those make do with putting them underneath the rear of the vehicle tucked between the rear axle and rear bumper. They’re the only vehicles with any remaining unused space.

    Even if you just got a mini-spare “donut” to throw in the back, if you can find one that will fit your model of vehicle even, you couldn’t take it with you on long trips since you would have no room for suitcases.

    However, since we seem to be getting forced into electric cars in the near future by government regs, I’m guessing the ultra-short range of these things, which will keep you with in 150 miles of your house before requiring an 8-hour recharge, means you’ll be less likely to travel far, and therefore easier to call for help, since you’ll be leashed to your home by your transportation options. Either that or get to enjoy the friendly fingers of the gate-rape TSA.

    • clover
      January 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      I actually took my mini-spare out of my trunk for a few months to see what it would do for mileage. Not really noticeable so I put it back in to save garage space. When was the last time you actually saw someone along the road changing a tire? It is so infrequent now and that is why they feel like they do not have to put those in cars. There is a good percentage of people that are not capable or willing to change a flat anyway. A lot of times you can not change a tire anyway with the tire bar that is included. You have to get out a T bar. I would guess there is a far greater chance that you would get into an accident anymore than to have a flat tire. The only time you really have to worry about getting flats is if you spend a lot of time in construction areas getting nails in your tires. The fix a flat would probably take care of those problems temperarily.

      • dom
        January 29, 2012 at 9:10 pm

        “When was the last time you actually saw someone along the road changing a tire?

        Last time I drove, so yesterday.

        • clover
          January 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm

          Nice Dom. As I said before. Try to make people believe what information you make up. Facts are irrelevant.

          • dom
            January 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm

            Listen dood. You don’t understand me well.

            Here is what I do:

            I work, workout, volunteer for the public school system (teaching karate & aikido), tinker with everything mechanical and non mechanical, do website stuff, and do the family thing.

            Here is what I don’t do:

            I don’t bullshit, fuck about, or give a shit about your perspective on things.

            You’ve demonstrated over and over that you are a Pud First Class and I am not even sure we are the same species. If you crossed my path in real life I would either ignore you, or tell you to fuck off. The internet provides your mentally handicapped ass more leeway than you deserve. I am a super nice guy (you can ask anyone who knows me). I have connections and friends everywhere I go because of it. I’ve lived all over America and Japan. Moved 24 times in my life and have had multiple thousands of friends. I am showing you the kindness when I say this.. YOU ARE A FUCKING IDIOT!

          • January 30, 2012 at 12:26 am

            I can vouch for Dom personally – and, notice, Clover: Everyone else here, just about, is capable of having a civil (and factual) conversation. It’s only you (and Gil) who seem to have a problem with everyone – and everyone with you.

            It’s worth thinking about…

      • mithrandir
        January 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm

        A flat can occur when and where you least expect it. I would rather have a tire than not have a tire in my car.

        By your logic, people should be able to drive without insurance if they choose. The last time, I considered using insurance for my car was about 7 or 8 years ago.

        • clover
          January 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm

          That is fine mithrandir. I am like Eric on this one. Make it an option since it is never used on almost all vehicles. There are more accidents than tires changed on the highway. A mini-spare and jack add only about 20 lbs.

          • January 30, 2012 at 12:20 am

            Clover, the last thing you are is anything like me.

        • January 30, 2012 at 12:19 am

          In Clover’s word, if it hasn’t happened to him then it doesn’t happen. He’s not been Tazered by a cop, so cops never Tazer people (especially not those who didn’t “ask for it”), etc.

          On tires: Just last summer I got a flat in a brand-new Acura press car. Luckily, it had a spare – because the damage to the tread was pretty severe and sealant would not have fixed it.

          But maybe I just imagined it, since Clover wasn’t there to see it.

    • Jerry J Brown
      January 30, 2012 at 3:41 am
      • January 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

        I bet those things are hard on your kidneys! And not much margin for those wheels, either.

    • John Illinois
      January 31, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Many years ago, Land Rover solved the problem of no room for a spare inside the vehicle–they mounted it on the hood.

  2. BrentP
    January 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Eric, thanks for reminding me about getting a spare.

    Not only are there a multitude of flats the goo can’t seal, but the goo destroys the government mandated tire pressure sensor. So even more cost.

    Presently most cars still have the spare tire well and it’s possible to put a wheel and tire in there that will work. Once that vanishes we’ll be back to how it was done in the 60s and 70s with the spare taking up trunk floor space.

  3. Tor Munkov
    January 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    They got too much sugar for a dime.

  4. Jay Wocky
    January 29, 2012 at 2:30 am

    All very well and good to pack one’s own spare tire. But what about being able to jack up a car that is sold with no spare? Would such a vehicle even be “jackable” by its driver on the roadside? What kind of jack do you use? Would it be affordable and/or practical? Where do you apply it? Can you safely change the tire when the spare-less car is jacked up? Or do you risk being crushed and/or having your vehicle slip off and incur serious damage?

    Eric, what say you?

    • BrentP
      January 29, 2012 at 5:33 am

      I went online and found the dealer with the lowest price for a jack kit and bought one. I can do that because other versions of my car come with a spare. Otherwise I would have gotten one from a junk yard or just used one that’s in my parts collection.

      Now what happens when a car is no longer designed for a scissors jack at the flange under the rocker? The aftermarket. Every car will have jack points regardless of having a spare. Compact hydraulic and mechanical jacks already exist so that will be the solution.

      This isn’t an unsolvable problem, but yet it is another needless problem added to life due to centralized power and control by people who are very disconnected from real life.

      • John Illinois
        January 31, 2012 at 7:24 pm

        Factory jacks have been a bad joke for more than 30 years. I had a 79 Grenade (Grenada) with a factory scissors jack that bent the first time I tried to jack the car up. On a level hard surface. That was on a par with the utility of the rest of the car. I got less than 50,000 miles out of that piece of carp before the fleet manager decided that the cost of keeping it on the road exceeded what she could get for it. My current car has 319,000 miles on it. I am pretty easy on cars, other than the fact the I do drive them.

    • January 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Ach! I should have addressed this! Probably the easiest option is a compact bottle jack and a lug wrench to fit your size lugs.

      Thanks for bringing it up – I’ll add to the article…

    • Toldev
      January 31, 2012 at 6:10 am

      Yes, you can purchase all of the tools you need to change a tire at most auto parts stores.

      Even if you have a vehicle with a vehicle manufacturer supplied jack and spare, you might want to go to the parts store anyway. Vehicle manufactures have been getting pretty cheap with the tire changing equipment they provide. They lug wrench provided probably will not loosen lug nuts that have been installed with an impact wrench. The flimsy manufacturer provided jack will work on level concrete, but you wouldn’t want to use it on a soft shoulder.

      The cost of a good lug wrench and jack is probably about $30 to $50. If it saves you from calling a tow truck one time, it paid for itself. Also, aftermarket lug wrenches and jacks are usually intended to work with a variety of vehicles. That means that you can probably use the same equipment on a new vehicle when it comes time to trade your current one it.

      • January 31, 2012 at 10:02 am

        Good stuff, Mike – thanks!

  5. Bryce
    January 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    It looks like the Tire Tojos have joined the Anti-Driving Fun Axis!

    Not to get too off the topic, but we could solve a helluva lot of problems like these by using CNG in our cars (as you just mentioned). I mean, we could drive big, heavy cars that are inherently safer (basic physics, you know)that produce pollution that’s too small to measure, last longer, and use cheap, plentiful, American fuel too!

  6. James
    January 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Duh Gutterment and Big Auto have been making cars less safe for years. . . every new “safety feature” mandated or introduced makes us less safe – Psychologists call it “Perceived Risk.”

    Mandatory Insurance, air bags, any feature which isolates the driver from their surroundings (at a time when they should be *MORE* aware). . . all lower a person’s Perceived Risk, and so they drive even more carelessly – the car will save them, and they have insurance.

    If “they” really want to make us more safe on the road, they’d remove the air bags and install rusty razor blades on all interior surfaces. . .
    Ok, I was being a bit facetious there. . . rusty razor blades aren’t safe either. . .
    But I think you get my point.

    • January 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      James –

      Brilliant point.

      Similarly, the “active” safety safety features encourage passive driving – which results in more dangerous driving.

      I was talking with a friend the other day, a guy who (like me) learned to drive in vehicles such as a late ’60 F100 truck with three on the tree. You paid attention because you had to – and you built skill, even if you didn’t consciously intend to.

      All that’s been thrown in the woods – ironically, in the name of making new cars safer!

    • mikehell
      January 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      James,
      I’m pretty sure that the data show that seat belt laws have *increased* the frequency of accidents because of the reason you state (the comparison is between states with and without such laws). However, the *harm* caused by accidents has gone down because of the seat belts so on balance the effects of the laws has been a wash in terms of total amount of physical harm. Of course cars are more expensive and we have to pay the parasites who make these rules so in financial terms it’s been a huge net loss. Dammit.

    • dom
      January 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      Yeah, shet is ridiculous. The cars cost more and are worthless. Told Eric a few times we should get some fellas together and start a car company, but with all the barriers to entry, government regulation/mandates (basically it’s a locked industry), it’s just not possible. It’s funny, in a country that is a “beacon of light” for the rest of the world. We are experiencing freedom here, right? All but the freedom of really doing things we want.

      • January 30, 2012 at 12:23 am

        It’s pretty ridiculous.

        A handful of guys with some skills – engine, welding, electronics, etc. – could put together a car themselves that might be very appealing to a lot of people. But what a handful of guys can’t do is build a car that meets government approval – which means they can;t sell it to the people who might find it appealing.

        One idea I had once upon a time was to functionally refurbish older cars. Not restorations – just fix ‘em up so that they’re mechanically solid and dependable again. I think it could be done within reason, money-wise.

        • mikehell
          January 30, 2012 at 2:23 am

          The simpler solution would be to let the Bigs buy up the roads and highways and engineer cars to fit the technology of the roads and vice versa. But I repeat myself.

        • methylamine
          January 31, 2012 at 5:25 am

          Yeah–we’re the “land of the free” (big chuckle), yet the Brits get to enjoy plenty of one-off and super-low-production cars like the Atom, KTM X-Bow, and a dozen others I can’t call to mind they’re so odd.

          Our Fuhrer-like departments of Whatever have declared that ALL cars, regardless of what miniscule numbers they might comprise, will obey The Law. Hence, we get the most Casper Milquetoast versions. Hell, even BMW didn’t think it economical to certify the M3 CSL here.

          “Land of the free”. What sick fucking joke.

          • January 31, 2012 at 10:06 am

            “Land of the free”. What sick fucking joke.”

            When I hear that Len Greenwood song, I feel the urge to hit something.

          • swamprat
            January 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm

            That damned song again! Now its in my head. Thanks. lol. Need to listen to My Country My Ass to dislodge it.

          • January 31, 2012 at 1:59 pm

            The song is bad – but the people who cheer it are much worse. Those flag-humpers just deflate any hope I still have that the country can be salvaged.

    • clover
      February 1, 2012 at 12:46 am

      James I am sorry but your no air bags or seat belts have already been tried. The death rate was far higher than what it is today. The problem is that people do not perceive risk unless they start to run off the road or actually have experienced a serious accident. Think about motorcycle riders. They have no safety devices except maybe a helmet and glasses but the death rate is huge compared to that of an automobile even if you take away the accidents where they were not at fault and were hit by someone.

      • That One Guy
        February 1, 2012 at 4:54 am

        “The death rate was far higher than what it is today.”

        Still no word yet as to why it’s the duty of government to remedy this.

        But we can rest assured that one day Iraqi schoolchildren will hear that sentence as well.

      • Boothe
        February 1, 2012 at 5:13 am

        Clover, do us a favor, move to Kansas, buy a bike (the fastest crotch rocket you can afford) and exercise your right to ride without a brain bucket as often as possible. A lot of folks would here would really appreciate that as a particularly nice jesture on your part. ;)

      • methylamine
        February 1, 2012 at 5:20 am

        Sure. Cars are safer. But those safety features should be my choice–not government’s.

        Haven’t we gotten in enough trouble protecting people from themselves?

        If you want those safety features–check the option boxes and buy’em! I’ll do the same. We can then both proceed on our way peacefully…me with the 1800 pound deathtrap, you with the 4000 pound bank vault o’safety.

        But do you feel right in forcing me to buy the bank vault o’safety? Is that OK? Not other people; for purposes of this discussion, it’s just you and me making the choice.

        You see, because it’s too easy to say “those people” and look at the schlubs around you collectively, and imagine you’re doing some noble thing making them “safer”. Every person is an individual, and it’s up to them to make their choices–not you, not me.

        • BrentP
          February 1, 2012 at 6:02 am

          Oh because he knows better than you.

          While I’ve been bicycling I’ve had drivers pull their cars uncomfortably close to me, slow to my speed and then start to tell me about how I should wear a foam hat. Never mind the danger of them driving their 2 ton vehicle a few inches from me.

          They are spreading their cloverism. It’s a sick control freakish thing that comes down from the puritans and other control freak sects that nobody would tolerate in europe. There is one answer, one way to salvation, their way. Since the state is the church today instead of the church being the state the ways of telling people how to live their lives have a different basis but IMO it’s all the same game.

          • Boothe
            February 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm

            Excellent observations Brent. Whether it’s the church, the state or some other organization (secret society, social club, corporation, charity, etc.) the name of the game is and has always been control. You want to worship God? Then you have to do it here, in this building, according to “our” dogma. You want to live in this county, state or nation? Then you have to pay these taxes and do what our armed enforcers tell you. You want to hang out with us for some advantages in society? Then you have to take this oath and go through our hazing. You want to work for Big Business, Inc.? Then you have to live by “our” employee handbook, keep your head down and your mouth shut. Everywhere I go and whatever I do these days, it seems someone is attempting to tell me what to do and how to do it. I suppose folks like Clover enjoy their freedom under a system like this; freedom from independent thought, freedom from any meaningful decisions when selecting cars and major appliances, freedom from responsibility for their own actions and freedom from acquiring too much wealth. If we get much more Cloverite freedom we’ll all be wearing orange jumpsuits before much longer.

  7. swamprat
    January 29, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Eric – Although I think that most of the garbage is unneeded on cars today such as safety roll cages (which make cars heavier), airbombs, and telematics, the actual numbers coming out of the NHTSA point to dramatically improved safety on our highways.

    Part of that can be traced to improvements in suspension and steering geometry coupled with the increased mass.

    Even prior to 2006, (the last year of increased VMT), accident volume was dropping, which indicates that drivers were benefitting from better handling, better braking and heavier cars (and trucks). Since 2006, VMT has dropped as well and the vehicle fleet has also changed from truck based SUVs to crossovers and compact cars. It appears that fatalities and accidents have dropped even greater than VMT, which indicates that cars continue to be safer and that the switch from ill handling trucks has had an impact.

    My take – better handling and braking automobiles have had a beneficial impact on traffic safety. Unfortunately, it comes at a cost of increased traffic levels and dumber driving moves on the freeways.

    Improved vehicles have benefitted people like me who like to drive faster. They mask problems people have with handling speed. In a sense, they have helped us keep higher speed limits for now.

    • January 29, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Hey Swamp,

      I absolutely agree in re the much-improved suspensions/brakes/tires and so on. No question. My issue is with the electronic “safety” systems that disconnect the driver from the driving. Things such as traction/stability control (especially when they can’t be turned off), ABS (ditto) and (lately) “intelligent” cruise control, lane departure warning systems and auto-park systems. Shit on all that. A good driver has no use for them. And they only encourage the bad drivers to pay even less attention to driving than they already do.

      Put another way, just imagine how much lower the accident rate would be if driving skill had improved (or even just remained at the level it was previously) on top of the improved suspensions/brakes/tires and so on.

      The cars are much better – but the average driver is arguably much worse. So the total improvement is much less than it otherwise would be – and should be.

      • swamprat
        January 30, 2012 at 4:30 am

        My take on the electronic crap is this – It has had little impact on overall accident and fatality rates. A study by, of all groups, the Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS) showed that cars equipped with ABS experienced no difference in accident rates as cars without it. As for ABS, ashamedly, I have maybe used its full capability twice in 31 years of driving. The last time was in the Jag. I was going about 70 or 75 mph and steered my way by traffic that suddenly stopped in the middle lane of a 3 lane highway. Does that justify the expense? Maybe, maybe not, but I would like to make that choice. Admittedly, I am not a superstar driver. I would like to improve my skills, but I know I’m in the minority.

        Back to the subject, I can’t understand for the life of me why people think they need a car to park itself, have rearview cameras, or even use cruise control. I guess the car makers think that they have to keep adding this crap in to keep people interested. I think it’s crap.

        I think that if car makers offered a cheap, competent, fun to drive car without half the crap and marketed it, they would sell a bunch of them. (Make it rear wheel drive, give it a tall highway gear and a quiet interior and I’d want to buy one.) There is a sizable segment of the population that is seeking to simplify their lives by choice and/or necessity. Every single carmaker selling in this country is missing that segment. I wish I had a week at the top of a carmaker. They would be developing and marketing cars again.

        • freedserf
          January 30, 2012 at 6:29 am

          You subsidize something to promote its growth. In this instance the safety nazi are promoting technology that they presume will save something. They are also effectively promoting the loss of skills that were previously relied on prior to the technology. Whether the technology actually has the effect they intended is not really of concern. They have done their good deed and they have moved on to their next feel good project.

          Meanwhile we have more people on the roads with less skills.

          Now if this technology was a commercial decision and if failed to meet the intended goal, it would be altered or reversed because these things have commercial consequence. Government failures are only reversed when making the reversal is irrelevant. Some commercial solution will have been implemented to get around the government failure and this effectively embarrasses the beaurocrats into action.

          You see the crux of government actions is dependent on how people feel.

          • January 30, 2012 at 10:49 am

            “You see the crux of government actions is dependent on how people feel.”

            Yes. And the worst sort of people, too.

            Clovers.

        • January 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

          “I can’t understand for the life of me why people think they need a car to park itself, have rearview cameras, or even use cruise control.”

          I can.

          A great portion of the population is now obsessed with “safety.” It is why we have Gate Rape – and it is why we have all the scheisse in new cars. Not everyone – but enough people – now become moist and supine when they hear that something is “safer.” Remember when you commented a few months back about the emergence of what you called (IIRC) Mom Culture in the ’80s, when those Baby on Board signs in cars began to pop up? That was the critical mass moment, I think, when Cloverism became the dominant attitude in the country.

          • swamprat
            January 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm

            It is ironic, too, since it was in the middle of the Reagan administration. I saw this coming as well and hoped it was a passing fad at the time. Boy, was I wrong. I wonder if this shit can be traced to baby boomers and silents.

          • January 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm

            I think we can blame the Boomers, too. (Well, some of them.) Remember, this cohort was the “hippie” cohort – and embraced what would develop into cultural Marxism (political correctness) as well as equality of outcomes, which has borne rotten fruit all across the landscape. In the ’80s, the Boomers were in their 40s and the “parent generation.” It was this group that got the Safety Bandwagon really rolling. And their kids grew up marinated in “safety” doctrine.

            I’m not sure why I escaped (or rejected) the conditioning. Maybe because my parents, though Boomers, weren’t Safety Nazis and disliked smelly hippies.

          • BrentP
            January 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

            Eric, it’s the age old question of environment and genetics. It’s a mixture of both and even then both only represent probabilities.

            I think there is a huge backlash against cloverism coming. People who were raised in these safety prisons are wanting to be free. It’s another reason the powers that be are working to close gates and bolt them shut.

        • John Illinois
          January 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm

          I have an aftermarket rear view camera that I stick on my car trailer when I am backing up. Makes it as lot easier to back the trailer into a space, especially if there is something I don’t want to back over, like a drop off. My wife is totally worthless at directing me where the trailer needs to go.

          • dom
            January 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm

            “My wife is totally worthless at directing me where the trailer needs to go.” I heard that!

        • clover
          February 1, 2012 at 1:11 am

          Swamprat, yes people have gone over a hundred years of driving without electronics but that does not mean that things were better. Would you also be without disc brakes and fuel injection? The next car I buy will have a backup camera, cruise control and even possibly a self parking car if they are cheap enough and I switch back to an automatic.

          I use cruise control every day I drive. I set the speed and forget it and even use it to slow down or speed up a little on the highway. It saves a lot in gas and if everyone used them then traffic flow would improve significantly. I wouldn’t leave home without it.

          Backup cameras are great for parking. In newer cars you can not even see the back of your car or the front of the other for that matter. That means you can back up an extra foot or so while parking and just maybe you will not come back to your car with a dent in the front of it if the other guy has one. They make it far safer for kids and other pedestrians also.

          The self parking car is just a toy for many bust for the people that are not good at parking or parallel park very little it could be a huge benefit. It saves you from waiting in your car lane for a couple of minutes waiting for the guy that can not park to finally accomplish it.

          • That One Guy
            February 1, 2012 at 5:09 am

            You could get disc brakes and fuel injection in your car well before the days of computer control so I don’t understand exactly what your point is here.

            Cruise control in traffic, Clover? That’s very very dangerous. I’m surprised you would advocate such a potential safety-compromising choice.

            Backup cameras absolutely do not make children and pedestrians safer because they encourage the driver to focus on the camera, which has a narrow field of view, rather than the mirrors. The backup camera cannot see a child running in from a direction perpendicular to your line of travel. Based on your track record this gross violation of public safety should make you a mortal enemy of backup cameras. Let’s see if you can be consistent here.

            And I’ll guarantee if you can’t parallel park you can’t gauge the size of a parking spot well enough for your car to park itself either. The best solution for lousy parallel parkers is practice. I failed parallel parking on my driving test and I took it in a Geo Storm. It wasn’t until I started working in the city and got sick of walking 3 blocks because I couldn’t get in the small spaces that I started making myself do it. Now it’s like second nature.

          • clover
            February 9, 2012 at 1:28 am

            Sorry That One Guy but I bet a million bucks you have never even seen/driven a car with a rear camera. I can tell by the misstatements that you made. They have a wide view. Yes I drive with my cruise control on in traffic. Not congested traffic. with free flow traffic it works great. I actually saw a TV show on last night on the SPEED channel that talked about traffic congestion. The three things in the study that they found to limit and improve congestion was to limit tailgating, limit lane changes as much as possible and try to keep a constant speed. That is done the best with a cruise control.

          • February 9, 2012 at 10:56 am

            Clover, I’ve mostly stopped even reading your posts, let alone bothering to reply, because there’s no point attempting to communicate with someone such as yourself who combines ignorance with invincible certitude – but I’ll make a rare exception now. I drive new cars every week. Been doing it for 20 years. I’ve test-driven every new car currently on the market – literally. So I’ve tested the back-up cameras in every make/model of vehicle – with the possible exception of a few exotics, which I only get every once in awhile. At any rate, I have vastly more experience than you. You have driven your car and possibly tried a couple of others. That’s the extent of your knowledge. Yet, again, you erupt with your universal statements of “fax” and “troofs” – as defined by you.

            Here’s the truth – and the facts, Clover:

            Some of the back-up cameras have a very limited view; many do not turn with the steering wheel. They merely send back a grainy image of a small portion of the area directly behind the car’s bumper. The view is inherently inferior to the view provided by a healthy human eye, which can perceive fine detail, depth and perspective in a way that these micro-cameras simply cannot. Can a back-up camera be helpful in a car with poor rearward visibility or which is driven by a person with neck or other anatomical problems who cannot turn to look himself? Sure. But actually looking to see what’s there is vastly superior in terms of knowing what is there – and what might be coming, too. As a Clover, you should be especially vigilant about “the children” – one of whom might be running into the path of a backing up vehicle. A human eye would see her coming from the periphery, providing more time to stop the vehicle. A camera would only pick up the child once she is within its range – which means, the child is already behind the moving car. Safety, Clover! What about the children?

          • That One Guy
            February 9, 2012 at 3:43 am

            Actually I work part-time at the local auto auction and I’ve forgottem about more of them than you’ll ever lay eyes on in your life, but thanks for playing.

            How does your foot taste, Clover? When can I expect to see that million dollar check in the mail?

          • clover
            February 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm

            Eric, I will challenge you any time to backing up. Maybe I have only seen the good backup camera of all the cars but I would challenge you any time at backing with a camera. Put a 3 foot pole behind the car and see if you can see it with the naked eye. See how close you can get to backing up to a car without hitting it with the naked eye and I will beat you any day of the week with a good camera. I do not care how good you say you can see but there is a huge blind spot directly behind almost all cars. Without a camera and getting out and checking a few time you do not stand A chance.

          • February 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

            Clover, I’ve no doubt your expertise at backing up matches the expertise you’ve displayed so abundantly here. I’ve also offered to meet you at VIR for a demonstration of our relative expertise on four wheels or two. You’re too much of a chickenshit to even admit what you do for a living, let alone actually put up when it comes to cars (or bikes).

            Yet you just never shut up.

  8. smithpae
    January 30, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Timely article. Just last night, while driving home from Lewiston Id to Orofino, a rock came off the cliff in front of me. Fortunately small enough not to kill me, but did blow out my rt front tire; breaking the seal. Pitch black, cloudy night, no stars. Northern Idaho, absolute darkness. No cell service (check out the topo on google, even my satellite radio doesn’t work in the canyon!) Hate those donut tires, but better than nothing.

    • January 30, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Yup!

      The minis would be better if the disparity in size between them and the now-typical 17 and 18 inch wheel/tire combo weren’t so great. I’ve driven these hobbled, three-legged monsters (a late model car with three huge/wide tires and one mini, after a flat) and they can be evil-handling, strange-braking bastards.

      • babydriver
        January 31, 2012 at 4:33 am

        Not to mention you might be changing two tires as I don’t recommend having the mini on the front of a front wheel drive. Too many parameters change, hell on the dif etc.

    • babydriver
      January 31, 2012 at 4:34 am

      Hello North Idaho,
      Dalton Gardens here.

  9. damon
    January 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I think there’s an interesting point made here Eric’s made. I too live in the Wash DC metro area…sadly, and frankly, I’ve not seen a guy changing a tire in recent memory, let’s say 3-5 years, if you exclude myself-I’ve changed a flat 3 times since 2004. And as an aside, those flats have not been from construction sites, but from my regular highway / secondary road driving. My access to AAA or other services is good. What about the dudes out in low density rural areas? They are screwed unless they are driving a truck. I do hope that manufactures decide to make this an option. I’d pay for it. I’d rather pay for stuff ad hoc that I want then buy those damn packages containing 10 things I don’t just to get the one thing I do want.

    • January 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      I liken spare tires to fire extinguishers in that while both flat tires and fires are fairly rare occurrences, they do happen – and when they happen, it is a fine thing indeed to have the necessary equipment to deal with it.

      I mentioned in a previous post that last summer I got a flat while driving a brand-new Acura RL press car. So, it can happen – even in a brand-new car.

      We now live in rural Virginia, too – where the cell service is poor and you can find yourself 30-plus miles away from anything, let alone a tire store. Many people live in such places – or drive through them.

      The thing that gripes me is decisions are being made for us – and often against our wishes – by Clovers in DC.

      Leaving aside the authoritarian aspects, these Clovers are invariably not Doers. They are Talkers. And Tellers. Worse, they have the effrontery to tell people who are Doers what they must do (or else). Few things are more obnoxious than someone like Obama – a guy who probably couldn’t raise a car’s hood without help – dictating engineering to engineers.

      • damon
        January 30, 2012 at 1:28 pm

        Agree. I don’t recall who said it, but the tyrant is eventually sated; those that want to improve humanity for it’s shortcommings will never be satisfied. I hope there is a special plane in hell for those individuals. The hubris, the arrogance, to tell me what I should and should not do in MY life.

        • Luke
          January 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm

          “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”
          -Clive Sinclair Lewis

      • January 31, 2012 at 2:40 am

        LOL Eric; Its not just the folks in Washingtin, its a global disease. Your neigbour is probably infected with it, I know one of mine is.

        Imagine legislation saying that you cannot drive without a seatbelt, or with a cellphone. Or any of the 4 million edicts and prohibitions meant to protect us from ourselves, yet any and all types to extreme (read spectacular) activities are actually promoted, yet the police are free to use truncheons and pepper spray on people who are causing no harm, yet the government is free to imprison you for the slightest resistance to their idiocy.
        Where will this end? Who appointed all these wanna be gods? And what makes them SOoOO competent to judge for other people?

        • January 31, 2012 at 10:22 am

          You’re right, Paul.

          Most people are completely casual about advocating that violence be used against their neighbor in order to achieve Today’s Worthy Goal (be it mandatory seat belt laws or mandatory “contributions” to fund “health care”).

          This is why I think it’s absolutely key to confront them with the reality of what they advocate. For example, when someone talks about mandatory seat belt laws, I tell them I am not a violent person and so oppose them. This usually prompts a follow-up: “Whatever do I mean?” Well, I respond, while I don’t deny that wearing a seat belt is probably a good idea most of the time, I would never threaten another person who chose not to wear one. After all, he is not hurting anyone; only possibly increasing his personal risk – and that is none of my business, or at least, it’s not something that gives me the right to threaten him with a gun. “Whatever do I mean?” – comes the expected reply to that. Well, I patiently explain, your seatbelt law empowers cops to do precisely that to any person who isn’t wearing a seat belt. If that person declines to stop his car (after all, he has done nothing to anyone, he is just going about his business in peace) or refuses to put on his belt, the result will be a cop threatening him with violence – gun or Taser or fists. I am repelled by this sort of thing. Aren’t you?

          It might at least get them thinking a little.

          • methylamine
            January 31, 2012 at 10:16 pm

            That’s a really powerful technique, Eric.

            I’ve used it in a discussion on Publik Skewl with a workmate; his contention was that without the skewls, the streets would be full of uneducated young thugs. After pointing out the absurdity of that–namely, that situation already exists–I tried the “do you then condone violence” tack.

            He wiggled; he squirmed; he misdirected; paper tigers were thrown. Ultimately he tried the Clover Sine Qua Non:

            “If you don’t like it, leave the country”

            Followed by “it’s a social contract; you live here so you abide by The Law”

            I kept coming back to it; I refuse to leave, but you keep forcing me to pay property taxes I countered.

            Eventually having cornered him, I asked him if he personally had the courage to come to my house and stick me up for more than $10K to pay for his kids’ schooling. No, he said, he wouldn’t actually do that.

            I pointed out his hypocrisy and cowardice, because he’s perfectly willing to hire THUGS to do what he doesn’t have the courage to do in person and call it “The Law”.

            He’s a particularly obstinate S.O.B. so the argument wasn’t won on him; but there were three others in my group present and I could see the points scoring heavily on them.

            Funny thing is; conversations like that end up converting bystanders more often than the target. One of the young guys is well on his way to a full anarcho-capitalist conversion.

            I feel like one of those goofy evangelicals “witnessing” to people :)

          • ThatOneGuy
            January 31, 2012 at 11:38 pm

            I too have used a similar argument regarding taxation. People have a hard time with the suggestion that taxes are extracted from them through the implicit threat of force.

            I won’t go through the whole thing but once you get down to “now the armed IRS agents who can take anything of value from your home are on your doorstep, what happens if you resist here” they start to get it.

            It’s the same when you ask people why they stop when the red-and-blue lights of Those Who Protect and Serve are in their rear view.

            “Because I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

            Yet you pirate your cable?

            No actually it’s because you know they’ll bust your ass if you don’t.

        • John Illinois
          January 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm

          Can anyone tell me how in the hell we made it all the way until the mid 80s without mandatory seat belt laws, child car seat laws, air bags, and on and on? We had paint that had lead in it until what 1978? How come we aren’t smarter, not as we seem to be now, dumber? We didn’t have 5 MPH bumpers until the early 70s. Remember how those were supposed to save us money? HAHAHAHAHA!!
          I worked in the insurance business for 42 years.
          We changed from a bumper that cost $100 to replace, to one that cost $500 to replace. PURE GENIUS!!!
          Airbags are just fantastic–Us old politically incorrect farts referred to them as Polish Parachutes–open on impact. Between a $1,000 bumper, and $2,000 air bag, it totals a car that is actually drivable, and even quite usable, if you reset the airbag interlock.
          I had one of those experimental air bag cars Chevrolet put out in 1973. I had the bag go off 3 times, but I never wrecked the car. The building manager where we had our office said that he didn’t want us parking those things on his parking lot, because he was tired of cleaning up the glass when they blew up in the parking lot. We had 10 of them in that office, and I think one of them went off every week. Mine saved me a ticket one night. I lived IN the CITY OF DETROIT. I was heading home one night on east Warren, I’d say 2 AM. I was doing “reasonable and prudent” for that area–California stop the stoplights, and nail it to the maximum speed a 400 CI SBC will do. A cop stopped me. We were sitting in his car, when my car decided to blow up, showering his car with my back window. He looked at my car, then back at me, handed my license back and said something to the effect “the only guys who have cars that do things like that have Italian last names”. Imagine driving your car with a garbage bag attached to the horn ring.

  10. mikehell
    January 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Meanwhile…..10 killed on I-75 in Florida. The road should have been closed but, hey, nobody that works for the state can be held responsible so who gives a fuck? Let ‘em die.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2012/0130/Florida-I-75-south-of-Gainesville-reopened-after-massive-pileup

  11. January 31, 2012 at 2:27 am

    It is one more step to complete control, and perhaps to discouraging people from driving private vehicles.
    There are no efforts this time around to improve emmisions by reducing performance power. In Canada, it is not possible to purchase and have installed only two tires on a vehicle, you must buy all 4. You can still buy two tires but you will need to have them mounted at a different place?? The restrictions increase daily and the corporations are pushing all of them. I can see the day when a special wrench is needed to change a wheel. lol In parts of Europe, there have been laws for many years, mandating even the appearance of vehicles..
    I recently tried to help a lady with low profile tires at a service station. The sensor told her she had a low tire, I couldn’t find it?? Probably the sensor malfunctioned…Back to the dealership..:(

    • ekrampitzjr
      February 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Did a quick check online. No law in Canada apparently requires a driver/owner to buy and install four tires at once, but it seems to be the stated policy at many tire dealers to require buying four winter tires. Another scam foisted on the public, but not evidently by big gummint this time. (Corporations are just as bad, and sometimes worse…)

  12. babydriver
    January 31, 2012 at 4:50 am

    But I love my cruise control. I take Loong trips and would not want to do without it.

    I remember a bumper sticker years ago in CA when there was all the pushing against high performance cars and ‘exhibition of speed’ citations etc.

    The sticker read:
    ‘Ban low performance drivers, not high performance cars’.

    All of the performance improvements I like. The high power, 4 wheel suspension, rack and pinion,4 wheel discs, YES.

    Traction control? No thank you. I prefer to control the traction, thank you very much. ABS either. I want to control the braking.

    In my 40+ years of driving I am in agreement with those thinking that the quality of the average driver has grossly decreased. Too many folks never learned to DRIVE the car, only how to hold the steering wheel and where the ‘go’ and ‘stop’ pedals are.

    4 wheel drifting is FUN! Outta my way!! LOL

    • BrentP
      January 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      People have been ‘trained’ to drive in the government schools. Designed to take the joy and thinking out of it. Since Nader it has been the engineers’ responsibility to make the product safe for dummies.

      Making driving dull and engineering aggravating has not helped this society one bit.

      My government school driving experience was the wrestling coach screaming at me and blood on the highway films. I had to learn how to drive on my own.

      • January 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        I think my experience learning to ride motorcycles really helped me to become a better driver – sooner and faster than the kids whose first direct experience with motorized transport came at almost 16 in an automatic-equipped car. If you start out on a bike and master the balancing, the clutch/brake/throttle work, etc. – you’re already way ahead, methinks.

        But at the least, a kid ought to start learning in a car with a manual transmission. I’m a real tyrant on this one. My position being, if you can’t work a clutch, you shouldn’t be driving. Not that everyone should be driving a manual equipped car. Rather, one ought to be able to do so – and if one isn’t able to do so, then arguably one lacks the basic skills necessary to safely operate a motor vehicle.

        • Boothe
          January 31, 2012 at 6:26 pm

          I concur that motorcycling makes one a better driver for all of the reasons you cite. It also makes you more aware of motorcycles, which makes it a lot safer for motorcyclists that encounter you on the highway.

        • methylamine
          January 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm

          Amen, Eric–my kids will learn on a manual without traction control and with the ABS module’s fuse pulled.

          Moreover, once they’ve gained some proficiency on a wet parking lot doing skid control, I’ll take them to Bondurant if I can possibly afford it.

          Track experience aimed at better car control–rather than just raw lap times–makes a better driver, too.

        • ekrampitzjr
          February 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

          Eric said, “But at the least, a kid ought to start learning in a car with a manual transmission. I’m a real tyrant on this one. My position being, if you can’t work a clutch, you shouldn’t be driving.”

          My position too. I hear a lot about teens—mostly but not all girls—who simply “cannot” muster the coordination necessary to learn to drive a car with a clutch. Admittedly, there have been a few stickshift vehicles that are hard or sloppy to shift, and those are not ideal for learning—but such vehicles are rare today. It’s hard to fathom what would be so hard for a young person of able mind and body about learning to drive a manual transmission, but many are. Perhaps we need a Wii app for teaching driving a stickshift.

          But I’m also hearing about ever more people in their teens and twenties who have chosen NOT to drive or get a license at all, which makes them dependent upon others to get places. Of course, most of them still live at home with Mom and Dad. They seem to expect to leech off others all their lives; certainly they won’t be able to get to a job.

          It would therefore appear that inability to drive, or learn to drive, a manual transmission is just the tip of the iceberg for the problems with a lot of today’s kids. I fear for our future. The word “idiocracy” comes to mind. And that leads to ever more stupid government mandates, such as the one in your OP that has led to dropping spare tires from cars. Not that the kids could figure out how to change a wheel anyway…

      • John Illinois
        January 31, 2012 at 8:06 pm

        I have a high school buddy who was a team manager for one of those thrill shows that tours county and state fairs. The summer just as my son was turning 16, we happened to be where he was working. He told us to come and see him during rehearsal. He asked my son if he wanted to go for a ride. I watched them practice for a while, then I noted–wait a second, my kid is driving–not one of his guys. He learned how to slide a car, and correct it, how to go over a 1 side jump, how to do the drive backwards, slur the car around and drive frontward, and how to drive on 2 wheels, among a couple other stunts. I asked my pal what would have happened if he wrecked their car. He told me that they think they are pros and know exactly what they are doing, but they wreck them all the time. I kind of feared that he would be a terror on the road. He drove 65,000 miles, never got a ticket, never put a scratch on the car.
        He kept contact with us, and when my son got out of the Navy, he offered him a job. Turns out that stunt driving doesn’t pay as well as the Navy, and besides my son had contractors after him that were offering REAL MONEY.

  13. Wendy
    January 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I have the ideal solution for all of you: ride public transportation!

    • methylamine
      January 31, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      And I have the ideal solution for YOU: stop stealing my money to fund inefficient, empty, roadhogging buses and trains.

      If there were a market for them, there would be private buses, vans, and taxis. Oh wait–THERE ARE!

      And if the laws constraining them would go away, there would a be a lot more. Jitneys, or vans-for-hire, are extremely popular elsewhere in the world. In South Africa where I grew up, minivan-based taxi services offered door-to-door service for less than public transportation…and a hell of a lot better.

      Not only that, but what’s more fuel-efficient: a minivan filled with 8 people, or a nearly empty bus carrying the same 8 people?

      The best part? Reduced theft. That is, theft of MY money to pay for YOUR utopian dream.

    • ThatOneGuy
      January 31, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      Ah yes the great egalitarian invention of reduced freedom of movement, association, and personal safety!

      I used to ride public trans quite a bit. That was what got me off the fence about my CCW.

      I don’t set foot on public trans without my .45; I don’t find much solace in knowing the driver can call a dedicated transit cop to come arrest the person who spilled my guts on the bus floor and that the cameras all over the bus will make sure my widow gets “justice.”

      Those of you in Portland better hurry on to the MAX train and make sure your daughters don’t miss out on the opportunity to receive a gang beating or have a gun pulled on you by an 11 year old.

  14. Deuce
    January 31, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    To be fair, the idea of ditching the spare tire is a choice the auto maker should be able to test in the free market. Nothing says they have to offer it, but it is something many may be willing to pay extra for. That’s free market choice. But what is totally ridiculous is cutting out the spare, without regard to the consumer, to cut weight for the sake of some inane mileage requirement. Especially when it actually doesn’t even accomplish anyway.

    I worked as a compound engineer for Bridgestone for several years which included the development of run-flat sidewall compounds and inserts. And I can tell you for a fact that run flat tires are typically up to 30% heavier than their conventional counterparts. The entire run flat concept rests on a dense rubber insert behind the sidewall that shrinks the air cavity, supplements load bearing capacity and maintains it in the event of a loss of air. Most of the other compounds in the tire are also beefed up in order to be robust enough to survive a run flat event. This additional weight across, say four 18 inch passenger tires, will far outweigh a temp-spare. And as you mention in the article, temp spares are often recycled. Meanwhile, get a flat in the middle of the desert, and your run-flat will probably have to be replaced even if its new and got you to safety. Thus I defy anyone to prove that more chemical laden rubber being produced, then subsequently put into a landfill is an environmentally viable alternative to some small savings in vehicle emissions. Expanded use of run flat tires will still contribute a huge net INCREASE in hydrocarbon waste. It’s not even close.

    BTW, you want to get REALLY scared about the environment. Go check out the used tire pile in Springfield Ohio. ‘The Rubber Rockies” are an ignored environmental catastrophe that has been going on for half a century. By comparison, 0.03% CO2 in the atmosphere is a sick joke to anyone who actually cares about the environment. Totally ridiculous.

    Thanks for a great article Eric.

  15. Ray
    January 31, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    You have me wondering if tires are being lightened too. I’ve been buying Michelin tires for decades without a problem. Until this past spring, I’ve always known them to be rugged tires. Since the spring, I’ve had to replace three tires that developed a bubble on the sidewall. I can accept the big pothole I hit at 70 mph because I hit it really hard and bent the rim so bad, I had to have it straightened. But the other two were about 40 mph and seemed like a minor hit. Am I correct about tires being weakened? Or is it from the aluminum rims distorting the sidewalls? It might make a good topic for your readers.

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